This week I attended the LYC Youth Sailing Foundation dinner with Jimmy Spithill.
When people who are into sailing hear the name Jimmy Spithill today they immediately think of the greatest comeback in all of sports history when he won the 34th America’s Cup regatta after coming from behind 8 races to 1 in a first to 9 wins all regatta. That’s what I expected him to talk about when he addressed the Lauderdale Yacht Club Youth Sailing Foundation this week. While he did talk a little about the victory and showed a video of the highlights from the last race, Jimmy told a message that will be with me for quite a while.
Jimmy Spithill opened the evening by talking about sailing high performance cats and what a thrill is it, but he quickly turned to his experience in launching the Oracle AC72 in San Francosco…the boat that was supposed to get them ready to win the America’s Cup. You know, the boat that he took off the dock, started doing some mmaneuverson the first day they were sailing this multi-million dollar racing machine…the one that pitch pulled and was destroyed after it washed out of San Francisco Bay and into the ocean. Jimmy talked about the experience and how there was only one person to blame for wrecking the boat…the helmsman…Jimmy Spithill.
Jimmy talked about the experience of the day and how everyone was overwhelmed and overcome in shock, but he spent a great deal of time talking about how it was believed by him and everyone in the yachting community that this mistake would cost Oracle Team USA the Cup. Given the fact that the build time for one of these boats was 10+ months and that the regatta was less than that, everyone was right to believe this. The team had no boat to train on, had to start from scratch building a new boat and it was all his fault. His message was not about despair though.
Jimmy talked about how the 100 person team rallied, the designers, the engineers, the athletes, the support staff and even the owner all dug in, worked around the clock to build a boat that was lighter, stronger, faster and better than the one that was now gone. Jimmy expected everyone to blame him and to look down on him for his mistake, but he said that over the entire time, not one person ever said anything disparaging or pointed a finger at his mistake. Instead, they banded together as a team to solve the huge problem in front of them and never looked back.
Then he talked about the regatta, about sailing against a team that was better trained, better prepared and better positioned to win and how race after race Team NZ proved their dominance. Jimmy Spithill talked about how his team was under trained, under developed and simply didn’t know how to sail their boat when the regatta started. He explained that each race they sailed was a learning experience on how to sail the boat and to make it fast. Then when they were down to the wire, when everyone was certain that the regatta was over with the Kiwis up 8 races to USA’s 1, how Larry Ellison called him to simply say that champions prove themselves when the cards are down and that he knew that Jimmy Spithill and the team were the best of the best and that they could win one more race.
We all know that Oracle Team USA won the next 8 races in a row and mounted what is the greatest comeback in all of sport history. Helmsman Jimmy Spithill gives all the credit to the team that learned how to handle adversity when he destroyed the boat and everyone stuck together to make it to the regatta. He gives the credit to a team of athletes who learned in every race how not to look at the scoreboard but to learn what they could to make the boat a little faster, to foil a little longer and to get ahead of the competition. He gave credit to noone ever giving up when times were tough and for staying focused and determined to do their best no matter what was in front of them.
After the dinner, I had the chance to talk with Jimmy Spithill about my Olympic Campaign in the NACRA 17 and is interest in the class and his desire to come out and sail. We also talked about his love of muscle cars and for one of my campaign supporters, Chevrolet and the Corvette he purchased when he first moved to the USA. So that gives me the opportunity to both sail on my NACRA17 and to setup a time to drive the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 with Jimmy Spithill, and you better believe that I am going to make it happen, no matter what!
By the way, did you notice my new tie? This was custom designed for our campaign and you can get one by making a donation to the campaign at http://mkt.com/followmetorio/silk-team-tie. It is a great way to have something nautical to wear while looking tops no matter what you are doing. Them make great gifts too!