It was standing room only at the U.S. Sailboat Show’s sold-out launch party when Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill came to the stage, fresh off an improbable victory in the 34th America’s Cup.
Greeted with a standing ovation, the Cup’s youngest helmsman offered his thanks and compliments to a crowd of exhibitors and VIPs at the Annapolis, Md., show. “I’ve enjoyed the show — getting to meet fans and people in the sailing industry but, more importantly, people not from a boating background because, lucky for us, they soon will be,” said Spithill, who is 34.
Attendees acknowledged that the latest America’s Cup did much to enhance the sport of sailing and brought the event to a broad fan base. Lauding boss Larry Ellison, Spithill said the success of the event had “silenced the critics,” adding, “There’s no turning back.”
But questions of where, when and what for the next Cup remain.
“We obviously need to get as many entrants as we can,” Spithill said. “And the No. 1 question is the question of the boat.”
Spithill revealed little else, other than to suggest the America’s Cup World Series — sailed in 45-foot catamarans — would go on. “Everyone loved them, even the teams,” he said of the AC45s. “Wherever there’s water, we can take them.” And he hinted that the cats could be modified to foil like the AC72s sailed in the Louis Vuitton and Cup races.
Asked about his newfound celebrity — he has made guest appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and “The Colbert Report” — Spithill was as cool as he was at the helm.
“It’s somewhat of an irony,” he said. “You’re the figurehead, but it’s really about the team. If there ever was a sport where you needed every single member of a team in the game — and not just on the boat but on shore, too — this is it.”