Timed Run

It’s not long now until the perfect amphitheatre of San Francisco is the stunning setting for one of the biggest events in our sport of modern times. SailGP crescendos its stunning, all-action second season that has been more wildly successful than anyone could ever have hoped for or imagined, with a one million dollar shoot-out between the best sailors on the planet at the very peak of their sporting prowess. It’s so close between Tom Slingsby, Nathan Outteridge and Jimmy Spithill that you have to think that the extraordinary is about to unfold. This won’t be a trail around a course, decided on the start and everyone playing nice. With the money on the line, everything changes.

©Bob Martin for SailGP

Up the road in Vegas, the gamblers have their chips on Slingsby and what a bet that is. But it’s an obvious punt on the favourite and there’s always that lingering doubt about exactly which Tom Slingsby shows up on the day. So the second favourite, Outteridge, is where some smart money will no doubt tumble. With a Team New Zealand contract in his back pocket, it’s not fool’s gold to make the case for the man sailing under the rather cool Japanese flag. But can the ‘wind whisperer’ cope with the fresh to frightening breezes of San Francisco in March? It’s a bet on the weather if you’re all-in on Outteridge. So then you’re looking at the force of competitive edge and needle that is Jimmy Spithill.

©Phil Hillyard for SailGP

And I’m calling it. That million bucks is heading the way of the USA Team as sure as night follows day. All the stars are aligned. And it will be done in style. Jimmy is the player for the big time with the mental fortitude to take this one right at the death, against the grain when the pressure is all on.

There are few sportsmen like him anywhere in the world – certainly in sailing he’s pretty much unique – and it’s the grit and will-to-win that defines every campaign he ever lends his name to. He’s absolute Box Office when sport means something and you can feel the heat rising at every press conference he ever attends. Jimmy sees sport as the whole. It’s not just on the water where it matters, it’s everywhere and anywhere – be that the parking lot, the boat park, the tow out or the bar afterwards. The needle is always on.

©Beau Outteridge for SailGP

In the last America’s Cup he never said die even when the Kiwis sat at Match point and he dragged that fabulous Italian team up by their bootstraps day after day, race after race with a coolness that Miuccia Prada would recognise on a catwalk in Rome. It was almost a shame when Max Sirena was sent out to face the media as Jimmy’s presence added so much and more to proceedings. In SailGP, he’s the face, he’s the man and there’s no such hiding options – the sport, the contest, the event is richer for that.

©ACE36/ Studio Borlenghi

Jimmy is a big time sailor and there’s no bigger stage than when there’s a million dollars on the line in a winner-takes-all, made-for-television live spectacle the likes of which we will see at the end of March. These moments don’t come along often but Jimmy has the nous and the knack of performing when it really, truly matters.

Can he put the Aussies and the Japanese to the sword? Yes. But could he beat Slingsby on his day in a straight fight? Possibly not and we know how well Slingers sails in a breeze. So how does he do it? The crucial moment will be the start and there’s possibly nobody better, as he proved against Te Rehutai in race after race in New Zealand, at getting off that line in pole position. With tensions high, it’s here where Slingsby, and to a degree Outteridge, could be exposed.

©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

And then there’s course management. Listen to the onboard comms when Luna Rossa was ahead in the Match and you’ll hear genius. Spithill was masterfully sending those vortices down the track and slam dunking at every corner. If he can squeak ahead in SailGP, it could well be goodnight and sayonara to the chasers.

But let’s assume it’s tight and it comes down to boat-handling around the corners, with Rome Kirby as Flight Controller, the USA team look mighty and it’s the hard yards that they endured at the beginning of the season that could well see them right at the end. This team gelled in adversity and were no-one’s pick for the final early doors. But they clung in, fought like dogs and secured a golden ticket without ever hogging the headlines.

A more perfect timed run? I think it’s all USA in this final if the conditions are anything in the median. Top end towards the scary end of the scale and it’s Slingsby. Light and shifty, write Outteridge on the cheque. Anything in the middle and the home supporters will be cheering loudly from the bleachers and the St Francis will be rocking.

Game on, all on. San Francisco in March is the only place to be.

9 thoughts on “Timed Run

  1. I entered the contest for US residents to win tickets, I couldn’t afford the trip otherwise. I’m probably not going to win, but it would be amazing to get to go (and the Amtrak trip from DC to SF would be an adventure in and of itself!)


      1. Well, we’re LinkedIn mutuals, but I’m not brash enough to randomly go around asking famous people I’ve only met once for special favors.


  2. Watch the 18 footers on Sydney Harbour if you want something that’s real and organic and heart centred and totally riveting. Go the Aussies.

    The complete anti-thesis of Sail GP.


  3. This is from Russell Coutts Facebook page. (This is fantastic news for the anti-mandate protesters (like me) and I hope he is being straight)

    “I’m heading to Wellington next week to join the protest. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to join a protest.

    I’m not anti-vaccine (I’m vaccinated) but I’m definitely against forced vaccinations.

    I’m also strongly opposed to the ever increasing erosion of our human rights and the growing limitations on our freedom of choice. I believe in having the freedom to be able to question so-called “expert” opinion.

    I’m against discrimination and the “them and us” society that is being promoted by our current political leaders.
    I’m against creating different rights, laws and privileges based on Race.

    I’m also against the irrational Covid rules that are currently being mandated in New Zealand, a few examples being;

    – The 10 day quarantine that still remains for international travel.

    – The absurd rules where our kids (vaccinated and unvaccinated) can sit in the same classroom and play sport together inside the school yard, yet are prohibited from playing sport together outside the school yard.

    – The absurd rules that prohibit two young unvaccinated brothers, living in the same household, from sailing together in a sailing competition because they would be within two metres of each other while sailing their boat.

    – The rules that require one to put on a mask to walk to and from the bathroom inside a restaurant when masks have already been removed while eating and drinking.

    – The contradictory rules that allow unvaccinated people to take a domestic flight (with a negative Covid test) but prohibit a young unvaccinated kid from competing in their sport (outside school).

    – The fact that our kids are forced to wear masks at school (even when it’s well known that the surgical masks most of them are wearing are highly ineffective).
    Finally and perhaps most important, I’m against the fact that some of our mainstream media have received payment from the New Zealand government conditional on them promoting government policy, propaganda and spin.

    So yes, I’ll be joining the protest in Wellington.” Russell Coutts.


    1. Oh, he’s never felt motivated to join a protest before despite making such frequent comments on being concerned about the environment? Peter Burling certainly showed his support for the climate march in Auckland in 2019. But Coutts has never felt compelled to join a protest.

      He’s come around to being proactive about including women at the highest levels in the sport and celebrated SailGP’s female athletes. But Coutts has never felt compelled to join a protest.

      He’s opposed to discrimination based on race, he posted on social media in support of Black Lives Matter in 2020 and led SailGP to adopt a diversity initiative as part of Race to the Future. But Coutts has never felt compelled to join a protest.

      It hurts me to say this, but when you look at someone who professes concern for the environment, women, and the rights of minorities but doesn’t show half as much outrage about any issues related to those issues as with people being vaccinated against a deadly virus and is only willing to protest against THAT in the middle of an outbreak… a comparison to swamp creatures might indeed be in order.


  4. Russel travels to the beat of his own drum, which when you come to think about is better than traveling to the beat of someone else’s drum.


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