Sailing: Jimmy Spithill's colourful relationship with Kiwis continues at SailGP

Jimmy Spithill is the man Kiwi sailing fans have long loved to hate and he's relishing that tag once again, as SailGP makes its New Zealand debut in Lyttelton this weekend.

Spithill was at the helm as the man responsible for arguably one of the greatest sporting heartbreaks in New Zealand sporting history.

In 2013, and at 8-1 down in the America's Cup in San Francisco, Spithill masterminded a fairytale recovery effort, as Oracle Team USA came back to stun Team New Zealand to snatch the Auld Mug.

Jimmy Spithill with the America's Cup (2013).
Jimmy Spithill with the America's Cup (2013). Photo credit: Getty Images

Team NZ got their own backs in Bermuda four years later, but Spithill's status as the archetypal sporting villain will forever endure - not that he minds.

As SailGP makes its belated debut in New Zealand, the Aussie is back in the heart of enemy territory.

Despite his Australian roots, Spithill is the CEO and driver of Team USA, and will compete on Kiwi waters once again this weekend at a vital time in the campaign.

Back in Aotearoa, Spithill hasn't been short of any reminder of how he's viewed by Kiwis. 

"A guy came up to me on the street the other day and said 'you're basically the red-headed step child of New Zealand'," Spithill joked. "I took it as a compliment, obviously.

"I've got a lot of friends, fans and feedback here, for sure. It's a great place.

Jimmy Spithill.
Jimmy Spithill. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I've never been to Christchurch, [it's my] first time down here, it's an amazing city… the forecast looks unreal.

"I'm pretty pumped to get out there."

With only one regular leg left before the grand final in May, Spithill's Team USA sit sixth in SailGP's standings, 24 points off first-placed Australia and nine points adrift of the top three.

A good performance this weekend will boost USA's chances of reaching the grand final, needing a top three finish to qualify.

But even with it all to do over the coming days, Spithill knows his side has what it takes to reach the finale.

"There's a lot of points still available, just in the amount of racing that's there," he added. "With the penalty system, any time there's damage or a collision, there's also a lot of points that can be lost - quickly.

"From my point of view, it's possible, we have to believe that. But at the end of the day, if you think too far ahead to the finish line, it's a waste of energy.

"You've really got to focus on one race at a time, that's the situation we're in.

"We're one of a few teams that have shown we can actually win this season. We've had a few good results, we've had some bad ones too.

"San Francisco is a big one for us. We'd love to get ready for that one and come out firing.

"Who knows, we'll see what can happen. Things can change really quick in SailGP."

Join Newshub at 3:30pm Saturday and Sunday for live updates of NZ SailGP, or watch free-to-air on Three.