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CoastWaterSports 2014

Jimmy Spithill reunites with Team Luna Rossa Challenge for 36th America's Cup

by Fabian Ress for Red Bull 14 Mar 13:44 GMT
Jimmy Spithill, twice winner of the America's Cup © Guilain Grenier / ORACLE TEAM USA

Team Luna Rossa Challenge has announced that one of the most famous figures on the sailing scene, Australian skipper and helmsman Jimmy Spithill, will be on board Italy's boat for the 36th America's Cup.

The partnership marks a reunion: Spithill previously helmed Luna Rossa Challenge to the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals in the 2007 America's Cup before going on to take back-to-back America's Cup wins with other teams. With his unique sports and technical expertise on high-performance sailing boats, Spithill brings powerhouse strength to team Luna Rossa Challenge as they prepare for next edition of the sailing's pinnacle event, to be held in Auckland, New Zealand in 2021.

Now, Spithill says, "The hunger has only gotten stronger! Already I have been impressed with the tools, technology and people they have in place. It's a great mix of experience, new energy and enthusiasm in an open environment: the makings of a great team."

In addition to his America's Cup triumphs, Spithill (38) is a multiple world champion in fleet and match racing. A blue-collar upstart in the sailing world, he debuted in the America's Cup as a skipper at age 20. He sailed in the next two Cups before becoming – in 2010 at 30 years old – the youngest skipper ever to win the "Auld Mug" at the helm of the most extreme yacht the competition had ever seen: the 90-foot-long by 90-foot-wide trimaran USA 17. In San Francisco in 2013, Spithill captured the Cup again in what the Wall Street Journal called "one of the greatest comebacks in sports history": just one race away from losing the match, he rallied ORACLE TEAM USA for eight consecutive wins to defeat Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8. In 2017, he again helmed ORACLE TEAM USA to the Finals of the America's Cup against eventual winner Emirates Team New Zealand.

In an exciting evolution, the boat for the action in Auckland will be a monohull AC75, a decision reached after months of concept evaluations by Luna Rossa Challenge and Emirates Team New Zealand. Spithill: "The boat is going to be a beast. It reminds me of AC 34 and the AC72 Foiling Catamarans. Nothing like this had been done before and this boat is on the cutting edge of technology. It will push people to the limit and really challenge all the teams involved. This challenge and difficulty is really appealing, and I'm excited to be back in the game."

With the challenge in 2021, team Luna Rossa Challenge will enter its third decade of America's Cup action – the first having also been in Auckland with the 30th America's Cup in 2000, where the team wrote a page in history by defeating 10 opponents, with a record of 38 wins over 49 races.

"It's great to be back with Luna Rossa, and personally I've had a lot of success racing and competing in Italy," states Spithill, who will be relocating to Sardinia to train and collaborate with his new Luna Rossa Challenge team members. "I'm looking forward to living in Italy. The culture, lifestyle and especially the food is awesome! I have to admit I will need to work on my Italian."

First interview with Jimmy Spithill as he joins team Luna Rossa Challenge

Jimmy, this is exciting stuff! You have a history with Luna Rossa Challenge, helming them to the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals at the America's Cup in 2007. How does it feel to reunite with the team?

It's great to be back with Luna Rossa Challenge – I have a lot of great memories from the four years we spent in Valencia during AC 32, and this time I have have been impressed with the tools, technology and people they have in place. It's a great mix of experience, new energy and enthusiasm in an open environment – the makings of a great team.

Since your previous collaboration with Luna Rossa Challenge, over 10 years ago, you've skippered teams to victory in the America's Cup in 2010 and 2013, before leading ORACLE TEAM USA to the finals again in Bermuda last year, where Emirates Team New Zealand came away with the win. That's a lot of experience and, presumably, a lot of learning that you bring to the table.

Of course as a competitor you're always learning, and since the last race of AC 35, I've been thinking every day about the America's Cup. Naturally, you go over the previous campaign piece by piece, focusing on all the key moments and decisions during the four years. Lately I've been able to understand how a lot of the other teams operated, and that in itself is very educational.

Any conclusions?

Ultimately, two things stood out for me: trusting my instincts is key, and the hunger has only gotten stronger.

And speaking of your past experiences, your collaboration with Oracle Team USA resulted in some iconic sailing moments. When you look back at it, what comes to mind?

What an amazing ride, with some amazing people. Without Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts, there is no way I could have gotten to this point in my career. I'm fortunate to have been able to work alongside some of the most successful people in sport and business, and lucky to be able to call them good mates. I look forward to catching up with them in the future.

It's been announced that the boat for America's Cup 36 is an AC75 monohull. First thoughts?

The boat is going to be a beast. It reminds me of America's Cup 34 and the AC72 foiling catamarans. Nothing like this had been done before, and this boat is on the cutting edge of technology. There are a lot of unknowns with the AC75, which will push people to the limit and really challenge all the teams involved. However, this challenge and difficulty is really appealing, and I'm really excited to be back in the game.

And what are your thoughts about moving to Italy?

Last time with Luna Rossa challenge it was the Valencia campaign and we moved straight to Spain – this time I'm looking forward to living in Italy. Personally I've had a lot of success racing and competing in Italy, and lifestyle and especially the food are awesome! I love the Italian culture, the landscape and the people. I have to admit, though, that I will need to work on my Italian.

Speaking of the culture, time for some quickfire questions...

Your favourite Italian dish? Margherita bufala.

Pasta or pizza? Both.

Your favourite gelato flavor? Stracciatella.

Can you swear in Italian? Exceptionally well!

Your favourite Italian phrase from what you can speak of the language so far? Va bene.

Your favourite Italian football team? Juventus.

Public transport or Ferrari? Ducati.

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