SailGP Bermuda Update 3 | Saturday May 14: Jimmy Spithill speaks ahead of Bermuda Season 3 showdown
We sat down with United States SailGP skipper Jimmy Spithill in Bermuda for an exclusive insight into his thinking and expectations ahead of this weekend’s much anticipated Season 3 opening event.
SGP INSIDER: How important is it going to be for all the teams to deliver a strong performance at this first event in Bermuda? Will first blood advantage be an important factor as we start this season?
JIMMY SPITHILL: Maybe, but if you look at last season us and Japan were in dead last after event one here and then we went through to effectively qualify for the final with an event to spare.
But the goal, without a doubt, is to put our best foot forward and try and post a good result. A podium result straight off the bat, that's definitely our hope and what we're shooting for.
You'd hope we can only improve from the last Bermuda event. But the fact is that there are more boats, the level's higher, and also there is more chance of situations out there.
SGP INSIDER: There has been a tightening of the penalty rules for Season 3 with the aim of minimising damage to the boats and injuries to the sailors. Collisions basically attract double penalty points from last season. What impact does that have on your strategy?
JIMMY SPITHILL: Essentially if there's contact or damage you'll get a significant amount of season points taken away and it sort of goes up in severity afterwards. Overall it's much harsher – I think it's double. Even if there's no contact in a close incident you can still lose points.
If that happened in, let's say, two events, I'd say the season's over. It’s pretty harsh, but they have done it because there are no spares anymore. So you have to be really quite careful on that side.
SGP INSIDER: There were a lot of collisions in San Francisco has there been a lot of discussion about how to keep the sailors safe?
The safety side is something that's definitely been discussed a lot – making sure we're not damaging boats or, more importantly, damaging people. That's a constantly ongoing discussion between the teams and the organising authority.
As an example we are testing today an avoidance alarm system to help warn the crews when the boats are coming together if they haven't seen it. Plus SailGP Technologies have been working on strengthening certain parts of the boats.
It feels to me that we're sort of going through what the auto and F1 community and all those guys go through on a regular basis.
Of course, the number one priority is keeping everyone safe and healthy, number two is keeping the boats racing. There's nothing worse than seeing the boat sitting out a race because of damage or something that's happened.
SailGP is competitive and it's fast. So there’s always going to be that risk – nothing's risk-free, especially at this level – but you definitely want to learn lessons from the last two seasons in this area.
SGP INSIDER: How will the racing change with more boats on the start line?
JIMMY SPITHILL: I think they're talking about increasing the start line length to try and minimize incidents. But either way it is going to be pretty incredible to see nine of these F50s heading off in close formation.
In some conditions that first reach is going to feel pretty quick! I'd say the first turning mark and the first gate especially, you will notice the amount of traffic, and just trying to get a clear lane will be really quite difficult if you're caught up in the pack.
SGP INSIDER: Rome Kirby has stepped out as flight controller for this event to be replaced by a newcomer, Hans Henken. We remember Rome nursing his shoulder after a crash in training before San Francisco. Is that what has put him out?
JIMMY SPITHILL: We had a big nose dive in San Francisco and Rome hurt his shoulder – and his nose actually – pretty significantly.
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