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Bernie Wilson: Oracle skipper Spithill tough on, off water in America's Cup

HAMILTON, BER – As spot on as [Jimmy] Spithill can be on the water, he’s a master behind a microphone. Two weeks ago, even before Team New Zealand had clinched a spot in the final, Spithill said at a news conference that the Kiwis made fundamental mistakes in losing two races in the round robins to Oracle. He said Oracle’s setup with tactician Tom Slingsby, another hard-nosed Aussie, was much better than the Kiwi boat.And then, saying he had a “leak” in the Kiwi camp, Spithill upstaged [ETNZ skipper Peter] Burling when he said the Kiwis would pick Britain as their challenger semifinal opponent. Spithill has never lacked confidence, whether it was as the 20-year-old skipper of a bare-bones Aussie challenge in the 2000 America’s Cup, or at age 30 becoming the youngest skipper to win sailing’s biggest prize. In 2013, he helped lead one of the greatest comebacks in sports, when Oracle, down 8-1 at match point to the Kiwis, won eight straight races on San Francisco Bay to retain the oldest trophy in international sports.Bernie Wilson, the AP's sports super-scribe from San Diego, is now in Bermuda to cover the 35th America's Cup; the foregoing is an excerpt from this report he filed after the Skippers Presser today.

Peter Burling, helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand, left, shakes hands with skipper and helmsman Jimmy Spithill for Oracle Team USA, right, in front of the America’s Cup trophy, known as the “Auld Mug,” before a news conference Friday, June 16, 2017, in Hamilton, Bermuda. The America’s Cup Match begins Saturday. Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget for ACEA.