This week in Cowes (UK), two of sailing’s youngest, most talented skippers – Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie – square off in The 1851 Cup, a one-off match racing regatta between America’s Cup winner BMW ORACLE Racing and TEAMORIGIN of the U.K.
Australian Jimmy Spithill, aged 30 last February, became the youngest skipper to win the “Auld Mug” when he led BMW ORACLE Racing to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup Match.
Now 31, Spithill also has won the Melges 24 World Championship and Match Racing World Championship, both in 2005. In honor of the success, he was selected the Australian Yachtsman of the Year (2005-06). Team Origin’s Ben Ainslie, 33, is a triple Olympic gold medalist and has been named ISAF World Sailor of the Year an equal number of times.
Both helmsmen are highly skilled and diverse. Spithill won the America’s Cup aboard the 90-foot trimaran USA (see photo), which featured a towering wing mast 223 feet (68m) tall, and his world championships have come in fleet and match racing disciplines. The two helmsmen were once teammates in the OneWorld America’s Cup Challenge from 2003, but haven’t raced each other much over the past few years.
Although the 1851 Cup is more of an international friendly than test match, it features two teams that could cross each other’s paths frequently over the coming years. “We’re pretty similar,” said Spithill. “He wants to win as much as I do, which is saying something. We’re both very intense about our work. I certainly have huge respect for him.”
– PR –