Jimmy Spithill announced his retirement from SailGP racing after the Australian catamaran he was helming was edged by trans-Tasman Sea rival New Zealand’s Peter Burling in a photo finish at the Emirates Dubai Sail Grand Prix on Sunday.
Burling poked his 50-foot foiling catamaran across the line just a few feet ahead of the Aussies’ “Flying Roo” after a tense final mark rounding on the Persian Gulf that included Canada’s Phil Robertson drawing a penalty. It was Burling’s first win since the Season 4 opener in Chicago and denied the three-time defending SailGP champion Aussies their first victory.
Spithill, subbing while friend and countryman Tom Slingsby is on paternity leave, said he’s retiring from racing to focus on running an Italian team he plans to debut in Season 5 of tech baron Larry Ellison’s global league.
“This was my last race as a SailGP athlete. It’s time for me to let fresh young blood into the competition, with the new Italian team, where I’ll take the role of CEO,” Spithill said. “And, what a way to go out with the Aussies.”
Spithill left Team USA two weeks ago after it was sold to a private American group whose investors include Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner and actress Issa Rae, among several others.
“It’s been one hell of a ride and I’m going to miss the battles and the competition,” said Spithill, an Australian who makes his full-time home in San Diego with his American wife and two sons. “It’s a full circle moment for me as it’s been over 20 years since I raced for Australia, so it feels fitting that I end my SailGP athlete journey on board with the Aussies.”
Spithill said the 37th America’s Cup next fall in Barcelona will be his last. He’s the co-helmsman of Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, which lost to Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand in 2021. Spithill is best known for skippering Ellison’s Oracle Team USA to consecutive America’s Cup victories.
Despite the loss, the Aussies extended their season lead to 11 points over ROCKWOOL Denmark. The Kiwis jumped into third place, one point behind Denmark and two ahead of Emirates Great Britain in the 10-boat fleet. The top three teams at season’s end will advance to the $2 million, winner-take-all Grand Final.
With the three catamarans coming together in light wind at the final mark, a last-minute penalty denied Canada the win while the Kiwis made the hard right turn and hit the finish line barely ahead of the Aussies.
“Foiling into the bottom mark, it was anyone’s game,” Burling said. “We had a hard lock on the boat for about 20 seconds trying to make that turn, so it was an amazing job by the crew to pull off a good last jibe and give ourselves a shot.”
Wing trimmer Blair Tuke said the crew was initially subdued because it didn’t know it had won, “but when it was confirmed it was a huge moment for the team.”
It was a big comeback for the Kiwis after their 29-meter (95-foot) wing sail suddenly shattered and fell overboard at the end of the first day of the Saint-Tropez regatta in early September, forcing them to miss the next regatta.
“Today was our first day back sailing with it, and of course that plays on our minds but we came out and showed how strong we are,” Tuke said. “This team has a huge amount of grit.”
The new-look Team USA, skippered by Taylor Canfield, finished third in the final fleet race but was eighth overall, dropping it from third to fifth in the season standings.
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