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SailGP: Spithill and Robertson surprised over Outteridge taking over Swiss helm

by SailGP edited by Sail-World NZ 18 Aug 10:52 BST 18 August 2022
Nathan Outteridge, co-driver and sailing advisor of Switzerland SailGP Team, looks on during a practice session ahead of the Rockwool Denmark Sail Grand Prix in Copenhagen, Denmark. 17th August 2022 © Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

Two top skippers have queried the wisdom of moving coach Nathan Outteridge into the helmsman's role aboard Switzerland SailGP for the upcoming event in Copenhagen. Jimmy Spithill and Phil Robertson were critical of the move at today's Media Conference.

U.S. and Canada drivers Jimmy Spithill and Phil Robertson have questioned the Swiss team’s decision to recruit SailGP veteran Nathan Outteridge, claiming new teams learn best through experience.

Outteridge, who was previously driver for the folded Japanese team, will step into the Swiss F50 as driver for upcoming events in an effort to train up Sébastien Schneiter who, at 26, is the youngest driver in the league.

The comments came in the second and smaller of two media conferences ahead of the Rockwool Denmark Sail Grand Prix Friday. Outteridge was on stage at the first media conference in Copenhagen.

Both Spithill and Robertson welcomed Outteridge back into the league, with Spithill describing him as ‘one of the best sailors in the world’.

Answering a question as to whether he had considered inviting Outteridge to join the out of form USA SailGP team, twice America's Cup champion, Spithill gave a curt response "I didn't know he was American!"

"From the Swiss point of view. I'm surprised."

"I've got to say my take would have been you learn more by getting on the field and standing on the sideline. So I was a little surprised at the decision."

Former World Match Racing champion Phil Robertson, himself a ring-in skipper for the Canadian team, echoed Spithill’s view, describing the decision as a ‘good move but a bad move as well’.

"I haven't looked too much into it to be honest," Robertson remarked. "And we're not too bothered. But for sure when you're racing one of these boats experience is everything, and you can sort of cut some corners pretty heavily - and we sort of did it with the Spanish team."

"You cut all the learning corners by bringing in experience and the good thing about that is you probably jumped to the top of the fleet or somewhere near it and are competitive. But the bad thing is is you don't learn the hard lessons the hard way and that's where you're probably struggle. So I probably echo a little bit of what Jimmy says - and it's a good move, but it can also be a bad move as well."

However, other drivers in the fleet complimented the appointment, with Great Britain driver Ben Ainslie, turning towards Outteridge seated at the opposite end of the top table at the first media conference, describing it as a ‘smart move’ by the Switzerland SailGP Team.

“Bringing Nathan in to understand where there are some jumps they can take in techniques and tactics and starting and so on, no doubt he’s going to have some impact in that,” he said.

The first media conference, held between five of the nine skippers, began with a post-mortem being conducted between the two protagonists, Tom Slingsby (AUS) and Ben Ainslie (GBR) over the third finalist determining racing incident at the end of Race 5 of the previous event in Plymouth. Both both skippers stuck to their respective positions.

Outteridge shed more light on his remit with the team, revealing that ‘improving performance’ is high on his list of priorities. He pointed to the team’s ‘9th, 9th and 8th’ finishes so far this season, adding ‘that’s not really what the team wants in terms of performance’.

Key areas for improvement are ‘starting techniques and maneuver consistency’. “The team was losing a lot of spots in Plymouth but not maneuvering as well as they can,” he said. Other priorities will be ‘grow the understanding of the F50’ and ‘build the crew up for Season 4’.

However, he said that the team was realistic about how long the process would take. “The team is under no illusion that we can turn it around in a matter of days,” he said, ‘it’s going to take all season.’

Outteridge gave no explanation as to how long he would be helming the Swiss entry, or how his SailGP commitments would be worked in with Emirates Team New Zealand's America's Cup development schedule, where he along with four other SailGP sailors are members of the Emirates Team NZ America's Cup sailing team.

The Rockwool Denmark Sail Grand Prix Copenhagen gets underway tomorrow.

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