Aussie Jimmy Spithill has announced his retirement from SailGP competition after a tense finale at Dubai, but can't resist a quick prophetic parting shot in his longstanding rivals' direction.
Filling in for Tom Slingsby on paternity leave, Spithill was at the helm of the Australian team that came up agonisingly short in the podium race, when New Zealand snuck home by the skin of their teeth in the tightest finish in the competition's history.
Next season, Spithill will shift his focus to starting an Italian syndicate, still involved with SailGP, but shorebound, as the new team's chief executive.
Spithill has offered Newshub a brief, but telling assessment of his feelings, after being bested by the Kiwi challenge.
"I'd be f**king better if you guys didn't win," he said with a grin.
The history between Spithill and New Zealand dates back to the 2013 America's Cup, where he established himself as Kiwis' favourite sporting villain by engineering an infamous comeback victory to win the 'Auld Mug'.
Peter Burling-led Team New Zealand bounced back to victory in 2017 and 2021, but the lighthearted war of words has never relented. That spirit shone through in Spithill's response, when he was asked about ending his SailGP tenure with defeat to another NZ team piloted by Burling.
"Still got another shot to come, mate," said Spithill, with a wry smile, referring to next year's America's Cup at Barcelona, where he'll again lead the Luna Rossa challenge.
Team New Zealand beat Spithill's Luna Rossa 7-3 in the 2021 Auckland final to defend the trophy.
"Incredibly proud to take that one off him," said victorious NZ helmsman Burling. "To get another one up on them again this weekend... it's an awesome nostalgic battle there."
Spithill says he is content stepping away from SailGP competition. He spent two-and-a-half years with the US team, before new owners chose to bring in a new helmsman before the Dubai event.
"I love the fight, I love the competition," he said. "I love waking up and feeling nervous on race morning, and being uncomfortable and getting out there under pressure.
"I love that stuff, but at the same time, it's time. I'll be heavily involved clearly with the Italian team, but it's time to see a new generation and a new young gun come through."
Tune into Three or ThreeNow for live, free-to-air coverage of all 12 SailGP events this season.2023-12-10T23:31:54Z dg43tfdfdgfd