Spithill said he couldn't disclose any specifics about the U.S. team other than a new group is bringing in its own CEO and driver, the roles Spithill held since taking over Team USA in SailGP's second season.
It's been known in sailing circles since late July that a private American group is looking to buy Team USA, which has been owned by the league. An announcement is expected within the next few days.
“I leave it in as good a shape as I could,” Spithill told The Associated Press from Sardinia, where he is preparing for his second straight America’s Cup as co-helmsman of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team. "If I look at when I started it, what I built and how I’m leaving it, it’s basically qualified for the final right now, having just won the last event, giving them a team with a winning culture and that’s competitive and with some value. That’s important to me and now I get the option to build with Italy.”
The United States SailGP Team is third in the 10-team fleet after five of 13 regattas in Season 4. It won the most recent regatta, in Spain in mid-October, three weeks after crewman Hans Henken was seriously injured in a mishap in a regatta in Taranto, Italy. The next regatta is Dec. 9-10 in Dubai. United Arab Emirates.
Spithill's Italian team would debut in Season 5, expected to begin shortly after the 37th America’s Cup concludes in mid-October in Barcelona.
Spithill, an Australian, is best known for twice winning the America’s Cup with Ellison’s Oracle Team USA, including leading an epic comeback in 2013 when the American-based crew was down 8-1 at match point before winning eight straight races against Emirates Team New Zealand.
Ellison and five-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts of New Zealand co-founded SailGP after Spithill and Oracle lost the America's Cup in 2017 to Team New Zealand, which chose to switch from foiling catamarans to foiling monohulls. SailGP uses a souped-up version of the 50-foot, wing-sailed catamarans introduced in the 2017 America's Cup.
Many sailors compete in both the America's Cup and SailGP. Spithill helped lead Luna Rossa into the 2021 America's Cup match, where it lost 7-3 to Team New Zealand.
When Spithill took over the United States SailGP Team for the pandemic-delayed second season, it was coming off a last-place finish and had no sponsors. He got the team into the $1 million, winner-take-all grand final, won by Australia's Tom Slingsby, and signed multiple sponsors.
Spithill’s history with Italian sailing goes back to 2007, when he helmed Luna Rossa into the challenger finals before losing to New Zealand. Italian fans and broadcasters smitten with his aggressive tactics nicknamed him “Jesse James Spithill” — after the legendary American gunslinger — and “James Pitbull.” He's also known for cutting one-liners aimed at his opponent's psyche.
Spithill said Italian fans are passionate and that there's plenty of emerging sailing talent.
"It's an exciting opportunity. Looking at the talent that’s out there, I’ll be really fighting for a spot on the boat," he said.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson