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America's Cup: Jimmy Spithill says 'I ain't no feather duster; not done yet'

Monday, August 28, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO – Last Thursday evening Jimmy Spithill was in Newport Beach visiting Dr. Robert Bray, the noted "Dr Fix-It" for the world's elite athletes, and his wife Tracey Kenney Bray. Both are sailors who race their his-and-hers Open 6.50s as members of Balboa Yacht Club, as they in the last week's Beer Can race – Jimmy sailing with Dr Bray in his, and Tracey with her regular crew in hers. The word is that she has beaten Jimmy in such races more than once, but last Thursday's very light conditions Jimmy got the better of her. Afterwards the good-natured Aussie, whom I had not talked to since his AC loss at Bermuda in June, sportingly joined the other sailors at BYC's regular post-race BBQ, adding a bit of sailing-celebrity luster to the evening. We spoke briefly in the buffet line, mostly "how's the family" small-talk and otherwise catching up with my former 2013 ORACLE TEAM USA officemate. I asked him whether he was planning to hang up his hiking boots or go again, and he only said with a grin, "Stand by."

 

So today we get the press release announcing Jimmy's autobiography, Chasing the Cup: My America's Cup Journey (available now on Amazon) as told to Rob Mundle, our long time friend and highly-regarded Aussie journalist and publicist.

 

It is quite clear, and no surprise, that Jimmy plans to have another go at the Cup a la Dennis Conner. As most of our readers will know DC lost the Cup to the Aussies in 1983, ending NYYC's 132 win-streak, and went on to win the Cup back for the USA with his hometown San Diego Yacht Club at Perth in 1987.

 

More interesting than the press release, which the not-so-esteemed cut-and-paste websites could not wait to post verbatim, is Duncan Johnstone's story on today's stuff.co.nz website. Duncan writes:

 

"Muhammad Ali won the world title three times which means he lost it three times too, and is the greatest boxer in history," Spithill noted in his final words in the compelling book. "I'd like to be remembered for getting up off the canvas – not for hitting it. I've just come off copping one of the biggest hidings of my life, but I ain't no feather duster. Not done yet."

 

He harked back to a comment from his Oracle boss Larry Ellison following their crash in the leadup to the 2013 San Francisco Cup that demolished one of the syndicate's giant AC72s. "Champions and champion teams always come back," Ellison told Spithill.

 

[In his book] Spithill talks up the genius of the Team New Zealand design, admitting they'd been out-thought by Glenn Ashby's "Game Boy" style control box for the wingsail, the cyclors, and Blair Tuke's ability to tune the foils by looking at a display screen while on his bike. That had enabled his rival at the wheel, Peter Burling, to be "freed up and get his head out of the boat rather than being head down focussing on riding the boat at the target-ride height". "Ultimately we were too conservative in a lot of areas and as skipper I take full responsibility," he wrote.

 

It is widely expected that the victorious Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron will reinstate a fairly stringent nationality rule for AC36, so it will be interesting to see if Jimmy can qualify, under whatever rule they put down on paper, to sail for his adopted USA (where he and his family, including his American wife, are domiciled and have been for several years), or for his native Australia, or perhaps both?

 

Jimmy Spithill's autobiography must have been in the works for many months, as it is now available on Amazon only two months after the conclusion of AC35, and it's the first AC book out after the Bermuda event. In the book he confirms, no surprise, that he's not done chasing the Cup.

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