James Spithall talks to Laureus about the Oracle Team USA America's Cup Victory
March 9, 2014
The Oracle Team USA Comeback was one of the most memorable of 2013. And it is no surprise the achievement earned the America’s Cup winning team a Nomination for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award.
Here Laureus.com talks to Jimmy Spithill, the skipper of the crew, about the experience from his point of view and the emotional effect it has had on him to this day.
Question: If we could just start with your memories of that amazing America's Cup win.
Jimmy Spithill: to do it the way we did and make what was the biggest comeback in sport was an incredible thing to be a part of. it's something that's hard to put into words. it really comes back to the fantastic team. If there's one thing that the team did well it was sticking together in the tough moments and that's what championship teams are all about.
It seems unbelievable when you're 8?1 down, that you could actually believe you could come back?
You know, that's the great thing about sport and in life: if they haven’t handed the trophy over, you still have a shot.
But obviously a competition that goes for a couple of weeks and you're that far behind, obviously your mind wanders a little bit. But I truly believed we had the team to do it.
Was there one particular speech you gave your team as skipper that made a difference?
One thing I said to the guys, actually before race one was "Look, no matter what happens, whether we're winning or whether we're losing or no matter where we are, we need to stick together, be there for each other, and hang tough." And that's exactly what the team did when we got into that situation.
When you were 8?1 down, did you use any video to motivate your team or something special?
I just believe that you never, ever give up. As long as there's a glimmer of hope, you still have a chance. The more the pressure came on, the harder the situation. Then that's when this team tends to excel. I think for me, it was the key to any champion, it's great when you're winning, but when you're losing and you're having a hard time and you're facing adversity, is when you see the champion ?? then you see the champion teams, then you see the people you want standing around you. And I've seen this team in some tough situations, and as the pressure came on more and more you almost relaxed more. For some reason, the team did very, very well when there was adversity or pressure.
There was a lot of coverage of Ben Ainslie's role coming in halfway through, an Olympic champion?
It's hard to single anyone out because it wasn't just one person. It wasn't just one person who made the result. No question, Ben did an amazing job. No question, Ben was an awesome, awesome guy to bring on board. He was just a very good team player. You know, he fit in, the guys took it on, and he brought some good energy on to the boat. He, along with a number of other guys, were big factors, but he was an important guy, no question.
What's the reaction been like since San Francisco?
The thing that's really blown me away is the amount of non?sailors who have enjoyed it and really gotten into it now. So the fact that it's connected with a mainstream audience was amazing. I actually had a couple of people come up to me with general illnesses that weren't into sailing and they were inspired by the comeback. They sort of came up and said look, I knew nothing about sailing, and to be honest, don't know much about the sport, but there's been a couple of times that I've thought about packing it in, you know, sort of giving it up, and the story and what you did, it sort of inspired me to keep at it and hang on. So that sort of really blew me away.
Did you have a pretty international crew?
In the America's Cup, it really is about getting the best people. So we had a multi-national team, with not only the sailing team but our design and our build team. If you have a team that's fully one nationality, you have a sort of cultural way of solving problems and dealing with things. When you've got a multinational team, they approach things differently and you get to a better solution in the end.
What did you do to celebrate after the 9?8 win?
It was just an awesome few nights. I think it was also a tough time for the guys, because you go from spending every day, long, long hours while working very hard. I mean, these guys are seriously racing. Every day you go through a few moments that almost ends in disaster. When you're red?eye lining yourself like that with that amount of adrenaline and serious consequence, when it suddenly turns off and stops, it's kind of difficult.
So you'll be looking forward to being in the team that defends it?
Yeah, I'm pushing for a three?peat. It's been an incredible ride and to be involved and win the first one, and to win back?to?back America's Cups, and now a shot at the third one is really, really exciting and going to take a lot of hard work, but something that I'm looking forward to.
What was your reaction when you heard that you were one of the Nominees for the Laureus Award?
Oh, it was really exciting. just to see the other great athletes there, I'm really excited for the night. I'm very, very excited. It's going to be really, really cool to meet some of my heroes from the other sports. I can't wait.
Have you ever imagined that you would be competing with the likes of Tiger Woods and Ronaldinho and Rafael Nadal for an Award?
Yeah, who would have thought? It just goes to show where the sport's come. It really is being recognised now. I think the team and the sport deserves to be there.