Jimmy Spithill drops trough

Steven Lippman

I've only got four toes on my right foot. I was just born that way. I have to wear different-sized shoes because my right foot is about three sizes smaller. When I was a kid, my right leg was a little bit smaller, so I had to do this big operation. I remember the doctor saying to my mom, "Just so you know, he's probably not going to be any good at sport." I don't know, maybe my mom just had an awesome time in the '60s.

Funny enough, when I finished high school, I won sportsman of the year. I remember when I won the award thinking, "I should send this to the doctor."

It's not athletic? The guys now who get off the boat look like linebackers. People probably imagine an older, rich guy going out to his boat in a blazer for a nice leisurely sail. It's actually the opposite.

I got my pilot's license after we switched to carbon fiber rigid wing sails. Because I thought, "Well, the best way to learn about aerodynamics would be to get a pilot's license."

Obviously, we make them sign a waiver. When we've been able to take guests on the boat, they just hold on. We've taken guys out like X Games gold medalists, snowboarders, rugby players, a whole range of different guys, and they all get off almost shaking saying, "That's the craziest f---ing thing I've ever done in my life!"

If you've been in the trenches with them, they'll step up for you every time. The main part is the respect of the [crew]. There's periods like in the last [America's Cup] competition where they've put everything out there, they've got nothing left in the tank, but you need to ask them to jump into the fire. I found that if you go through a lot of that pain and hell in training with them, they won't second-guess you when you ask them for more.

I used to have to go to school by boat. I grew up near a national park in Australia; it was like a little island where there was only boat access and no roads. For me, it was a way of life. It was just a little area, and a few other kids lived there, and we couldn't get any TV reception. So when you'd come home you'd just be playing on the water. You just couldn't get anywhere without stepping into a boat.

Red hair -- that's what got me into boxing early. Because whether you like it or not, you're going to be fighting. The hair gives you a bit of a target.

It takes a hell of a commitment to play our game. There's not just one discipline. You can be a basketball player and you play your game on a court. Well, our environment is different every day; our racetrack changes all the time.

We are held accountable. There's very few examples in team sports where the athletes actually control the direction of the team and the outcome. If we win or lose -- especially if we lose -- we are held accountable, so you have to really be in control of your own destiny.

You can no longer just be a good sailor. You have to be an incredible athlete as well. Having said that, you can be a great athlete, the strongest guy in the world, but if you can't anticipate and make decisions under stress and exhaustion and think ahead, then you won't be able to cut it either.

I've kind of banned myself from motorcycles. I've had broken ribs, broken shoulder, wrists, leg, broken collarbone -- and it was all from motocross or rugby. All of my injuries have come from outside of sailing.

I think people were surprised. Six weeks before the America's Cup I did a 32-mile open ocean paddleboard race in Hawaii. I gained a lot of respect.

It's all well and good to bench-press a s---load of weight. But it's not applicable to my sport. There aren't many sports where you can just go out and bench-press.

All of our decisions come at exhaustion. So we train physically very hard. We do a CrossFit-style workout, and in between our trainers will stop us and pull out a puzzle. We'll all be physically ruined, sweat coming down everywhere, and we have to try and complete this puzzle. If you don't do well, or if you are last, you might have to do another round of what you just did. There will be a consequence. It forces you to think calmly under pressure while also just physically trying to breathe. We've done some training with Navy SEALs, and that's where we got that idea.

The word that we use a lot is "relentless."

Being fit is a huge part of making good decisions. If you're driving the boat, you aren't just going to hurt yourself, you are probably going to hurt your 10 best mates next to you. That's a mental game you have to play with yourself. For me, I really want to make sure I'm making good split-second decisions, because I'm putting all their lives on the line as well.

I love getting out of bed for competition. That's really what motivates me -- but doing it as a team. Going to the gym on my own I struggle with, but when I'm in there with a teammate or a group of guys, it's the ultimate environment.

I would hustle at pingpong at a young age for ice cream. Now it's moved on to small bets, like $1 here or there, whether it's shooting basketballs or golf. I just love being competitive.

I like to do more than the other guys. The guy that is opposite me on the other team, I want to know that when I look across at him, I know that I've done more than him. I've outworked this guy and trained harder than him.

Defeat is nothing but education. Not only do you learn from the mistake you made, but you learn about yourself -- how you reacted, how the team reacted and are you going to grow stronger from it? Some people don't get over it, but if you can learn from that experience and be open and candid about it, then you'll end up being a better athlete for that loss.

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