Crew Shuffles Ahead of SailGP in Dubai

As the SailGP Season 4 rolls into Dubai in December, Spithill steps out to make way for a new US team to be announced.
Tom Slingsby
SailGP Australia’s Tom Slingsby will be absent at the next SailGP stop in Dubai. Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

When SailGP’s Season 4 racing resumes next month at the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix there will two starting skippers absent from the lineup. Rolex World Sailor of the Year and SailGP Australia’s helmsman Tom Slingsby will be home expecting his first child and SailGP USA’s Jimmy Spithill will be watching from afar as he’s announced he’s sold the team with plans to launch an Italian squad after next year’s America’s Cup.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved on and off the water with the US Team,” Spithill said in an announcement last week. “When I took over for Season 2, the team had just finished last overall in Season 1 and had no sponsors. I immediately took the team to the Grand Final, added multiple sponsors, and as a team we experienced multiple wins – including the last event in Spain.”

The Finals win in Spain was certainly the highlight of an otherwise mediocre season that has the US-flagged team third overall in the season championship standings. In the Season 4 starter in Chicago the team finished ninth, one place ahead of the rookies of SailGP Germany. They were fifth in Los Angeles and St. Tropez, and then third in Taranto, Italy, before reaching and winning the one-race finale in Andalucia-Cadiz.

One critical difference between Taranto and Cadiz was the substitution of SailGP USA flight controller Hans Henken, who was injured in Taranto. Stepping into the role in Cadiz was U.S. Virgin Islander Taylor Canfield, who was more present in the US compound late in the season and is expected to take over the helm in Dubai with the team under new ownership. An announcement regarding the sale of the team is expected next week. With Spithill’s departure there will likely be a number of personnel changes in the sailing and management team.

SailGP USA team in Candiz
Taylor Canfield, at left, stepped in as flight controller in Cadiz for the SailGP USA’s first season win and is expected to take the helm with Jimmy Spithill’s departure. Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

SailGP Canada also announced this week that its veteran wing trimer Chris Draper was leaving the team ahead of the Dubai event.

“I have the utmost respect for Chris, as a sailor and friend,” said SailGP Canada’s Phil Robertson in a team-issued statement. “Chris was an integral part of the Canadian team since inception, providing a very stable influence for the team,” said Robertson. “Chris’ expertise and experience were key in developing and upskilling this new team. We have been through incredible highs and lows since the start of Season 3 and Chris played a critical part in the successes of the team to date. Chris is a leader, mentor, teacher and most importantly a great friend to all.”