Sailing 'as tough as the NFL'oracle 1
Team Oracle USA skipper Jimmy Spithill draws parallels ahead of America's Cup.
When you think of sailors, you don’t immediately draw parallels with NFL players.
But Jimmy Spithill, skipper of Team Oracle USA, who on Tuesday unveiled their boat with which they are targeting a hat-trick of America’s Cup wins, says the sport has moved on to such a degree that his 14-strong sailing team are bigger and better than ever.
“Where we are today, it’s a real athletic game,” said the Australian. “The physical load and limits that the athletes take is like nothing else we’ve seen in this sport and it now rivals NFL, basketball and a lot of those physical sports.”
Spithill and his crew have spent months in the gym bulking up and getting in shape for the rigours of the hugely physical, foiling catamarans, which are 15 metres in length and capable of reaching speeds approaching 100 km/h.
And the speed as well as the physicality throws up its own issues.
Spithill added: “You reach your maximum limit physically and exhaustion very, very quickly and then you’ve got to make split-second decisions while exhausted and under stress.”
The 37-year-old has become a master of decision making at speed and under duress, a two-time winner of sport’s oldest trophy - the Auld Mug dates back to 1851 - most notably at the last cup in 2013 when he overturned an 8-1 deficit to win 9-8.
This year’s vessel, titled “17”, was unveiled in a ceremony on Tuesday night.
Of the creation, Spithill said: “This is the boat we’re racing to win the America’s Cup. We need to get this boat out on the water and put the hours in getting it ready to race. The long days will continue.
“I’m really proud of this team and what we’ve achieved so far. I’d like to thank the design team, the engineering team, the shore support, and our full boat-building team, including the guys who couldn’t be here.”
The boat was created by more than 15 designers and 50 boat builders and has taken a total of 85,000 man hours and counting.
The racing does not get under way for another three months, and Scott Ferguson, the team’s design coordinator, said that more cutting-edge modifications would be made right until the final minute in what is as much as a technological race as a race on the waters of Bermuda, where the Cup will be held.
“Many of the major design decisions have been made and have been built in already to what you see tonight,” said Ferguson.
“But the refinement and optimisation process never stops. We know there is still speed to be found between now and May 26 when racing begins in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers and that’s our focus for the coming weeks.”