May 26, 2016

America’s Cup


Ready to set sail with America’s Cup? The world’s oldest sporting trophy has attracted fans from across the globe: read why sailing has captured the heart of Steve Bruce, Jet Linx Aviation Quality Manager, and stay tuned for an interview with ORACLE TEAM USA Skipper Jimmy Spithill.

“I have always been interested in boating in some manner or other,” recalled Bruce. “I remember bringing a library book home from school on learning how to sail.” Soon, his passion for the sport – with a little encouragement – brought his parents to buy him a used sailboat. After discovering racing, Bruce was completely hooked. “I have always enjoyed the part of the race called the ‘pre-start,'” he explained. “This is where both boats jockey for the best position for the start and to see if they can make the other boat make a mistake: it’s really exciting to watch. Both boats can be going all out, whizzing around spectator boats or they can be just lifting the sails to make the boat just stop and even going backwards.” The pre-start can have an impact on the final score, so it’s important for keen fans to watch.

The America’s Cup is of particular interest to Bruce. “It’s fun to watch all the different countries compete to see who will challenge for the Cup,” he said. “There is just something about two boats using the wind to see how fast they can go.”

charter-jet-jimmy-spithillORACLE Team USA was founded in 2000 by Larry Ellison, Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer of Oracle Corporation. The team first competed in the 2003 America’s Cup, reaching the finals but losing to Alinghi. The team raced again in 2007, and was the Challenger-of-Record for the 2007 America’s Cup, until losing to Luna Rossa Challenge in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup Semi Finals.

The team took the America’s Cup title for Golden Gate Yacht Club when they challenged Alinghi, Société Nautique de Genève’s title holder, in Valencia in 2010. Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) had accepted a challenge from Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) – although, at the time of challenge, CNEV had never run a regatta. SNG and CNEV released protocols for the cup regatta, but the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) started legal action against SNG, claiming that the Deed of Gift was not being upheld. The court ruled in favor of GGYC after a protracted legal battle, but the two clubs were unable to agree on protocol and raced as a Deed of Gift match. GGYC successfully bested SNG in Valencia, Spain, rallying from behind to win. “The highlight was overcoming tough situations as a team,” said Jimmy Spithill, ORACLE Team USA’s skipper. Spithill, age 30 at the time of victory, became the youngest skipper ever to win the America’s Cup.

ORACLE Team USA successfully defended their title in 2013, hosting the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay. Emirates Team New Zealand, representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, won the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge ORACLE Team USA. It was the longest Cup ever – both by number of days and number of races – and ended in a spectacular winner-take-all race, the first since the 25th America’s Cup in 1983.

The team will fight to defend their title again in 2017, in Bermuda. “It’s motivating, there are a lot of strong teams in the game, this will be the hardest America’s Cup in history – which is quite a statement given it’s the oldest trophy in international sport,” Spithill explained. Artemis Racing, Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), Emirates Team New Zealand, Team France and SoftBank Team Japan, along with ORACLE Team USA, are competing in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, vying for points that will count toward the final competition for the 35th America’s Cup in 2017. The World Series consists of three events in 2015 – in Portsmouth, Gothenburg and Bermuda – and six events in 2016 – in Muscat, New York, Chicago, Portsmouth, Toulon and Fukuoka – with another to be determined in early 2017.

Spithill has a passion for speed off the water, as well: he holds his private pilot’s license, noting the similarities between aviation and sailing. “They are both very alike, a well set up boat is like a well set up plane, allows you to look around,” he mused. “I started flying to learn about aerodynamics and became hooked in the process. My next step is a helicopter
license.” Spithill recalled one of his favorite moments of flight: landing in strong crosswinds in a Cessna 150. “We did it a few times and knowing what to do in tough situations reminds me of what we do daily in the America’s Cup as we are constantly pushing the edge.”

America’s Cup fans shouldn’t worry: Spithill won’t leave the world of sailing for aviation full time. “I much prefer working in a team or group, as frankly it’s much harder to get the result. But for me it’s more rewarding. It is refreshing though to try things away from sailing and individually,” he said. Longtime fans and newcomers to the sport alike have a lot to look forward through 2017 and the 35th America’s Cup. Looking to get your feet wet with sailing? Spithill has simple advice. “Watch it on TV or the app – or better yet, get there in person,” he said with a grin. “You will be blown away!”

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