US SailGP team hires ex-America's Cup champ Worthington

BERNIE WILSON

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Kimo Worthington, who was on teams that won the America's Cup and a major round-the-world race, has been hired as general manager of the United States SailGP team.

Recently retired as an executive with North Sails, Worthington said his main role in running the team will be to take pressure off skipper Rome Kirby during the global league's second season.

“Rome was getting pulled in all different directions and getting taxed,” Worthington said in a phone interview. “He needed someone to come in and take the pressure off. The skipper goes sailing and I take care of everything else. I just remove obstacles to make it easier for them to go racing. I did the same thing at North Sails. I removed obstacles so they could sell sails.”

Worthington, 60, sailed with the fathers of three of the U.S. SailGP crew members. He was teammates with Kirby's father, Jerry, with Bill Koch's winning America3 team in the 1992 America's Cup. In 1995, Worthington was head coach of what started out as the first all-women’s team in the America’s Cup, and Kirby was one of his coaches.

Worthington crewed on the winning EF Language team in the 1997-98 Whitbread Around the World Race, which was later renamed the Volvo Ocean Race and is now the Ocean Race. Worthington managed several teams in the VOR, including Puma Ocean Racing in the 2011-12 race when Rome Kirby was on the crew.

Worthington also sailed with the fathers of team members Riley Gibbs and Pete Kinney.

Worthington said he's watched video of every race from the five regattas in the inaugural SailGP season. The series is contested in high-performance, foiling 50-foot catamarans with wing sails, similar to the ones used in the 2017 America's Cup.

“It's really fun to watch,” Worthington said. “I enjoyed the America's Cup in Bermuda. Could I sail one of the boats? No way. I could sail any other boat in the world but I would flip this and hurt somebody, they are so complicated. I couldn't get it off the dock.”

The Australian team, led by America's Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist Tom Slingsby, won the inaugural season championship by beating the Japanese team in the $1 million, winner-take-all match race finale.

The United States was in position for a season podium finish going into the final regatta, but ended up last in the six-boat fleet, one point behind France.

Worthington said the way to catch the more-experienced Australian and Japanese teams “is to be very disciplined and really kind of stay within themselves. They have to worry about themselves, worry about unforced errors, make sure the boat gets around course. When you're going 30 to 40 knots around the course, you can't worry about the other boats. You've just got to get around the course as fast as you can. If you do, I think you can beat those guys."

Besides Kirby, other sailors returning to the U.S. team are flight controller Taylor Canfield, wing trimmer Gibbs and grinder Hans Henken. Newcomers include grinders Kinney, Scott Ewing and Ben Bardwell, and reserve wing trimmer-flight controller Victor Diaz de Leon.

The United States will once again be the only team with two regattas in home waters, in San Francisco on May 2-3 and New York City on June 12-13.

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