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Published: Monday March 10, 2014 MYT 6:18:00 PM
Updated: Monday March 10, 2014 MYT 6:48:06 PM

Comeback credit goes to the team: Oracle skipper

ORACLE Team USA, which won the America’s Cup last September, is nominated for the Laureus World Sports' Comeback of the Year Award.

The awards ceremony will be held at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur, on March 26.

Jimmy Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, speaks to Laureus about the America's Cup win and his thoughts on the award.

Laureus: If we could just start with your memories of that amazing America's Cup win.

Jimmy Spithill: Well, you spend four years of your life working extremely hard and sacrificing a lot to get there, and obviously to do it in the way we did it was something you wouldn't even dream of.

But yeah, I mean, to ultimately do it the way we did and make what was the biggest comeback in sport, yeah, it was an incredible thing to be a part of. And to be honest, it's something that's hard to put into words.

It really comes back to the fantastic team. If there's one thing that the team did well, it was sticking together in the tough moments and that's what championship teams are all about.

It seems unbelievable when you're 8-1 down, that you could actually believe you could come back.

The thing about this team was that we had been tested before. We had faced some real adversity. I'm sure there were a couple of guys who were thinking, okay, this could be it. But I truly believe that we had the team to do it. That's the great thing about sport and in life, that, if it's not over, if they haven’t handed the trophy over, you still have a shot.

Every day we went out very hard and focused on each race and tried not to think too much about the end result. But obviously a competition that goes for a couple of weeks and you're that far behind, obviously your mind wanders a little bit. But I truly believed we had the team to do it.

Was there one particular speech you gave your team as skipper that made a difference?

One thing I said to the guys, before race one in the America's Cup, I didn't know where it was headed, but I said to the guys, “Look, no matter what happens, whether we're winning or losing or no matter where we are, one thing we need to do is stick together. We can't let the media or anyone get between us. We have to just hang in there and sort of be there for each other, and hang tough.”

And that's exactly what the team did when we got into that situation. It was a whole combination. It wasn't the guys on the boat or the guys on the shore team, the engineers, the designers that were trying to help us. It's just like Formula One.

So it really required everyone, and also our ability to never stop trying to learn. I mean, from the start of the competition to the end, we trained every single day. For the last month, we worked every single day. So psychologically, you could see we were actually working hard and loved it.

There was a lot of coverage of English sailor and Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie's role coming in halfway through.

It's hard to single anyone out because it wasn't just one person who made the result. No question, Ben did an amazing job. He was an awesome guy to bring on board. He was just a very good team player. He fit in, the guys took it on, and he brought some good energy onto the boat. He, along with a number of other guys, were big factors, but he was an important guy, no question.

Did you have quite an international crew?

In the America's Cup, it really is about getting the best people. So, we had a multi-national team, with not only the sailing team but our design and build team as well. I guess our prerequisite was getting people with the right attitude and getting the very best people who were team players.

I've been involved with teams where there's been, say, the majority of one nationality, and I've found you actually get to a better solution with a multi-national team.

The reason for that is that when you have a team that's fully one nationality, you have a sort of cultural way of solving problems and dealing with things.

But, when you've got a multi-national team, they approach things differently. From what I've seen, that usually ends up being a much more positive result and you get to a better solution in the end.

So what's next for Jimmy Spithill and the crew?

The last three to six months have been pretty critical in that it really starts again. What wins these sort of events is getting the right people.

There's been quite a push from a lot of people to secure different people and get the right sailors, designers, engineers, boat builders, crew, etc. A lot of work's been done for the next event and the big decision now is where it will be held. We are going to start training next month. So, it will be good to get together again.

Are you looking forward to being in the team that defends the Cup?

Yeah, I'm staying with the team. It's been an incredible ride and to be involved and win the first one, and to win back-to-back America's Cups, and now a shot at the third one is really, really exciting and going to take a lot of hard work, but it's something that I'm looking forward to. There are always changes and mixing up of the team members, but I'm excited. It's a really, really good group and I'm looking forward to having a crack at No. 3.

You talked about where you would defend the Cup. Do you have a favourite location?

No, that's all being dealt with right now. We're looking at a few locations. But the key thing now is that we have a product that works on TV and a product that young sailors can watch. It's exciting and people get it, the graphics that they use are very educational for people, and the boats are just so out there. They are extremely physical. It's just a completely other level that no one has ever seen and that's what's important, and really all the credit goes to (owner) Larry Ellison for having the vision to get it done.

What was your reaction when you heard that you were one of the nominees for the Laureus Award?

It was really exciting. Just to see the other great athletes there … I'm really excited for the night. I'm obviously attending – representing the team, because that's what got us the result, the fact that everyone put themselves second and the team first. I'm very, very excited. It's going to be really cool to meet some of my heroes from the other sports. I can't wait.

Have you ever imagined that you would be competing with the likes of Tiger Woods and Ronaldinho and Rafael Nadal for an Award?

Yeah, look at that, who would have thought …. I think, it just goes to show where the sport's come. It really is being recognised now. But then again, if you look at what the team pulled off, that comeback, with the amount of pressure with what was on the line, I think the team and the sport deserve to be there.  

Tags / Keywords: sailing, America s Cup, James Spithill, Jimmy Spithill, Oracle Team USA, Laureus World Sports Awards

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