Resurgent Spithill sings Russell Coutts' praises
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Skipper Jimmy Spithill credited the "massive" influence of Russell Coutts as Oracle completed a record-equalling fifth consecutive win to heap more pressure on Team New Zealand in the America's Cup final.
Oracle's remarkable stretch of wins, all completed with the Kiwis sitting on match point, brought Coutts into the frame.
Coutts is the common denominator as Oracle joined Team New Zealand (1995 and 2000) and Alinghi (2003) as the only teams to win five in a row.
Coutts was a skipper in the previous efforts and has now taken a front office job with the Oracle syndicate as CEO, content to let Spithill and a new generation of sailors take over on the boat.
Spithill, oozing even more confidence as his team's comeback gained more momentum, closing to 8-6 on the scoreboard, didn't hold back with his plaudits for Coutts who he believed had contributed massively.
"You want Russell Coutts in your team ... he's the most successful skipper in the game, he's very good at long-term strategy," Spithill said.
"The thing with Russ is, he's such a good sailor as well that he really does know the whole game. It's really beneficial having him."
But he said Coutts' key strength was that he was a team player.
Oracle is heavily loaded with strong personalities. That starts at the top with billionaire backer Larry Ellison who has a lot on his hands right now with San Francisco hosting the massive Oracle Open world conference.
That had been timed to dovetail with the finish of the America's Cup but the final dragging out endlessly had complicated that.
Spithill said Ellison was "really excited" by his team's resurgence.
"He's a natural competitor and a natural athlete. He's a lot like Russell - he won't let his ego get in the way to put himself on the boat. He thinks of the team first and himself second. He's an amazing guy and I'm happy to have him as a team-mate."
Meanwhile, Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton was absent from Aotearoa again yesterday. He has missed the last five races - all lost.
It seems the heavy physical toll of this final may have caught up with the 56-year-old. Winston Macfarlane has taken his place as a grinder
"We know we are in a tough match and we want to put as much work [power] on there as we possibly can," Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said.
"Dalts worked really hard to do his job on the boat but he feels the best possible scenario for the team to be successful is to have Winston there ... Grant has been happy not to be on the boat."
- Fairfax Media