Spend a few minutes talking to Jimmy Spithill, skipper for Oracle Racing Spithill, and you will quickly learn two things: he loves competitive sailing, and he wants everyone else to love it as much as he does.
He gave many reasons why he was looking forward to the America’s Cup taking place in San Francisco, but one came to mind before the others.
“I think it’ll really showcase to people how cool the boats are and how cool it is to watch,” he said.
Having already filled his résumé with a series of impressive entries — he was the youngest helmsman to compete in the America’s Cup, at age 20 in 2000, and won the event in 2010 — he now hopes to spread the sport across a new fan base while driving to add more titles to his trophy case.
“We’re really going through a re-education phase for the America’s Cup,” he said. “People have the perception of what it was. Sailors don’t look like athletes.”
Spithill said he has taken several athletes from other sports out on the water with him, many of whom returned with a new appreciation for what he does for a living.
“They’ve come on the boat and watched what the guys go through and they can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s just frightening they say how physical it is.”
Growing up in Australia, Spithill took a boat to the mainland just to get to school, and his family bought their first racing boat from a rubbish cleanup, which he got fixed up with the help of his father and sister. They began competing at the local yacht club, and he was hooked.
He has since found many benefits to traveling the world to compete in various events.
“That’s the one thing that’s really called me to the sport and to the World Series is that you do get to get out and see some harbors and different cities and cultures,” he said. “They all come with their own experience. Italy has been a lot of fun because the Italian fans are huge. You get thousands and thousands of people just coming down to watch the racing, but I think we’ll see the same in San Francisco.”
He takes little credit for his success however. His team is made up of more than 100 people, including research and development, boat makers, sail makers and many more.
“I think what’s made it the most successful is having good people around you. … It makes me work harder to get up with them,” he said.