Spithill earns another America's Cup crack

·2-min read

Australian sailing superstar Jimmy Spithill will contest another America's Cup after helping to steer Italy's Luna Rossa to a crushing 7-1 defeat of Britain's INEOS Team UK in the Challenger Series final in Auckland.

The Italians will now take on holders Team New Zealand for the America's Cup, the world's oldest sporting trophy, starting on March 6.

Having won their first race of the best-of-13 series on Saturday, Ben Ainslie's Team UK made a confident start once again on Sunday and took a slender lead at the start of race seven.

But Luna Rossa raced past their rivals to take control heading into the first gate and never looked back, crossing the finish line one minute and 45 seconds ahead for a 6-1 lead.

Despite conceding a penalty for an early start in race eight, Spithill and co-helmsman Francesco Bruni found another gear as Luna Rossa coasted to convincing victory by 56 seconds to clinch the series.

Sydneysider Spithill, 41, was skipper and helsman for BMW Oracle Racing when the American team won the America's Cup in 2010.

He went on to defend it twice, both times against Team New Zealand, first successfully in San Francisco then unsuccessfully in the 2017 Americas Cup in Bermuda.

In this America's Cup he is one of two helmsmen on Luna Rossa, steering starboard tacks while Bruni steers the boat on port tack.

"Let's get those sails down, boys, and get in for a beer," said Spithill as they approached the finish line.

"Time for high fives," Bruni said. "Bravo to the team, bravo Italy. Fantastico.

"It's a great day for us, it's a great day for Luna Rossa and it's a great day for Italy. We're in for a great fight for the America's Cup now."

Team UK skipper Ainslie is Britain's most celebrated modern sailor, a winner of four Olympic gold medals.

"They've got about two knots faster, so it's pretty hard to race against that," Ainslie said. "We've been trying everything to get on top of it but clearly we can't.

"I know it's a big deal in Italy, getting to the America's Cup final again, so congratulations to Jimmy and the team," he said. "They sailed brilliantly and deserved to take the final."

Luna Rossa, who have won 11 of their last 12 races, will be having their second tilt at the America's Cup against Team New Zealand.

The two teams previously went head to head in the 2000 America's Cup match in Auckland and in the 2007 Challenger Series final in Valencia. TNZ swept both ties 5-0.