AC34: Game Faces
AC34: Game Faces
Both men are confident in their teams and their platforms. One is polished, the other shaken. One is lean, the other is flush with spares. The America's Cup Best of 17 starts Saturday, Sept. 7., and here's what the lead men have to say from the opening press conference.
For the first time since the beginning of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the press conference room was jam-packed with reporters of all nationalities this morning, standing room only for photographers and journalists all vying for the opportunity to glean even just a tiny clue as to which team may have it over the other in the battle for the 34th America’s Cup. The first race starts at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday, and both Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand confirm that they are race ready.
But, the teams come into this highly competitive race from very different places. OTUSA’s taken a ride through a tirade of ups and downs, from capsizing a boat to accusations of cheating that have resulted in severe penalties to the team, whereas ETNZ today celebrated their 100th day of sailing their AC72, a team milestone, announced team helmsman Dean Barker with pride.
Spithill wasn’t quite as jovial or relaxed as he’s been known to be, but he put on a strong front amidst difficult questions pertaining to the issue of the jury decision which will see the American team begin the event two races down and minus the experience of Jimmy’s longtime right-hand man and grinder-trimmer, Dirk “Cheese" de Ridder. It’s been a difficult time, says Spithill:
“I think it is [difficult] in any team sport when you lose a key player four days out from the event you’ve been working towards for four years. In this case arguably I’ve been working with Dirk for six years; it’s not ideal. However, do I think we can still win? Yes, I think Kyle [Langford]'s a great talent. He’s someone I have raced with in the past and enjoyed success with. We’ve all got around him to support him, and he’s jumped in and I expect him to step up and take it on.”
Spithill was quick to remind, “We’ve got a fantastic team, and I think the fact that during the last two years we’ve gone head to head against Dean Barker in match racing multihulls, he’s never beaten us.”
Australian Langford is the youngest member of the OTUSA team, and Spithill admits he’s spent a significantly less amount of time sailing with him, “I’ve really only sailed with Dirk for the past six years,” Spithill said.
OTUSA has elected to race its Boat 2 starting Saturday, claiming no particular reason for choosing that boat as they both pass measurement.
“They’re both really competitive,” Spithill explained. “All of us, we’d be happy to race either boat. We’re in a great position with the two boats, we’re ready to roll. We just favor Boat 2 a little bit more, the fact that it's just a few developments ahead of the first boat, but they’re very similar.”
Two boats is definitely one advantage that the American team dearly needs and has up its sleeve. With Spithill’s bulldog reputation, he’s one fiercely competitive human being, the knowledge that he has two race-ready boats at his disposal may mean he can afford to take some extra risks.
“I think with these boats there is always risk, and to get the most out of them you’ve got to push the whole way,” Spithill says. “I think both teams will do that. Do I think we have an advantage because we have two boats? Yes, because if there’s a big issue out on the water, our [other] boat is ready to go. I’m not sure ETNZ have got their second boat ready to go. We’re setting up for the fight of our lives. We're not a team that shies away from adversity or challenge.”
When asked how his team reacted to de Ridder’s suspension, Spithill, with conviction, stated that he was shocked. “I’ve raced with Dirk for the past six years. He is one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met. I never once questioned his ethics. He’s very competitove and a guy I like racing with. We’ve won a lot of races in a lot of different classes. He’ll be missed by the team, but saying that, we’ve got depth and talent in our team, and we’ve been working hard the past few days. I’m confident the boys will get out there and put up a good fight.”