Jimmy Spithill used Bulgarian 'heavy' to silence abusive Kiwi internet troll

Jimmy Spithill's remarkable 2013 comeback win with Oracle Team USA proved too much for some Kiwi fans.
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Jimmy Spithill's remarkable 2013 comeback win with Oracle Team USA proved too much for some Kiwi fans.

Jimmy Spithill used New Zealand private investigators and a Bulgarian "heavy" to shut down a Kiwi in London who was giving him abusive and menacing comments over the internet in the wake of Oracle's miracle comeback to win the 2013 America's Cup.

Spithill certainly didn't endear himself to either Emirates Team New Zealand or Kiwi fans in general with his constant goading during the remarkable America's Cup match in San Francisco as Oracle Team USA fought back from the seemingly impossible position of 8-1 down in the race to nine points.

Spithill revealed the level of hatred directed at him and the lengths he went to stop some of it in his new biography, Chasing The Cup – My America's Cup Journey.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lifts the America's Cup in 2013 after his Team USA boat skippered by Jimmy Spithill secured ...
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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lifts the America's Cup in 2013 after his Team USA boat skippered by Jimmy Spithill secured unlikely victory over Team NZ.

"Unfortunately some Kiwis were so incensed by our comeback and subsequent victory that it triggered something I found extremely disturbing," Spithill wrote.

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"I was trolled on the internet  before and after we won. I wouldn't have cared if it had been aimed only at me ... but when this guy using an alias started writing on Facebook the address of our houses in San Francisco and New Zealand, together with photos, and going on to make terrible comments about my family, it had gone too far: it was abusive and menacing. This was not freedom of speech – it was a really nasty vendetta aimed at my family and me."

Spithill enlisted the help of a trusted Kiwi friend whose father and brother were private investigators.

"They didn't muck around. Within a few hours they were able to pinpoint the perpetrator: he was a Kiwi living in London," Spithill wrote in Chasing The Cup – My America's Cup Journey.

"However, instead of sending the police to his front door, the investigators contacted a rather tall, somewhat imposing Bulgarian gentleman they knew who subsequently paid him a visit.

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"Within an hour we had a photo of the offender, a signed statement from him and a guarantee that everything he had written would be removed immediately.

"I was surprised and impressed how easy it was for experts to track down this lowlife."

Spithill admitted he had purposely pushed the envelope with his mind games as his team found themselves in their desperate position.

"Of course I had been a bit cocky and arrogant at the press conferences during the Cup match, but that was part of the game. I wanted to unsettle the Kiwis, especially since I believed they might be vulnerable."

When team mate Joey Newton approached Spithill after one of the press conferences telling his skipper the Kiwis weren't enjoying his comments in there, Spithill said that only encouraged him to "keep it going and even turn up the heat a notch".

"In reality, most of it was tongue in cheek," he said in a book where he constantly emphasises his love of New Zealand, respect for the country's yachting talent and Sir Russell Coutts in particular.

Spithill dismisses the conspiracy theories about Oracle's miracle comeback and puts their victory down to hard work and a willingness to take risks.

That included increasing the camber of the giant wingsail to make it more powerful, despite the possibility of it being too much for the structure to handle.

Spthill said that eventually helped them with foiling upwind over the second half of the final which he felt was the key difference in the end.

"Upwind foiling would prove a game changer. That's why we trained and trained and trained until we were finally mastering foiling upwind – which the Kiwis couldn't do at all. Once we could sail on foils upwind, we were off like a startled gazelle."

Chasing The Cup – My America's Cup Journey

Jimmy Spithill with Rob Mundle

Bloomsbury Publishing

 - Stuff

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