SAN FRANCISCO
07/25/2013 09:03 pm ET

America's Cup Skipper Talks Danger And Controversy At Commonwealth Club (VIDEO)

The Commonwealth Club and The Huffington Post present Commonwealth Club Thought Leaders, an ongoing series of insights from the most interesting people in California. Read the summary below and watch the video above—then share your thoughts.

By John Zipperer

The Bay Area can boast of a number of strengths, including its booming tech economy or its food scene. But as the sports world focuses its attention on San Francisco for this year’s America’s Cup competition, San Franciscans can now brag that their famed bay is known for being a dangerous place to race dangerously cutting-edge boats.

That and lawsuits, of course. Always lawsuits.

Even with all of the controversy surrounding the competition (including worries about its financial impact on the city), it is still a source of local pride for many that the San Francisco Bay was chosen as the site of this year’s America’s Cup. It helps that it is also a good place to hold concerts while others are doing the dangerous racing.

Jimmy Spithill, Oracle Team USA’s skipper, didn’t apologize for the danger or for the desire by sailors to court the risk; it’s what drives them, he recently told The Commonwealth Club of California.

Responding to concerns about the design safety of the massive 72-foot catamarans being used in these races, Spithill noted that it is a brand new design, but basically shrugged off fears by saying that it is “very difficult to go through life completely risk free.” Athletes push themselves as part of any sport, going outside their comfort zone, “doing something less than ordinary.”

It’s also why high-performance athletes prepare, prepare, prepare. In Spithill’s case, that included taking flying lessons so that he could better understand how to navigate the Bay’s winds and currents, according to San Francisco Chronicle reporter Julian Guthrie, author of The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed Up to Win Sailing's Greatest Race, The America's Cup.

There’s no doubt that Spithill regrets neither the hard work nor the risk-taking. “After a great day on San Francisco Bay sailing, really getting pushed,” he said, “it’s so rewarding.”

For more thought leaders, visit The Commonwealth Club of California.

Video editor: Mehroz Baig

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