Jimmy Spithill has 'healthy respect' for Kiwis as he begins campaign with Italian challengers

He's the man Kiwis have long loved to hate but Australian sailor Jimmy Spithill would only speak glowingly about New Zealand as his team, Italian outfit Luna Rossa, launched their second boat today.

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Spithill and Luna Rossa will be out on the water this week with their second boat now launched. Source: 1 NEWS

Spithill has had many labels in New Zealand over the years, largely thanks to that memorable San Francisco comeback he skippered for Oracle Team USA back in 2013.

But seven years on and Spithill is singing a different tune with his Italian crew.

“It’s just a healthy respect,” Spithill said.

“People love seeing competitive teams come out here. We like to think we're going to be competitive.”

Although that competitive spirit is definitely still there too.

“It’s tight out there on that race track so we won’t be able to help getting close to the other guys and mixing it up on the water,” Spithill said.

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The Italians celebrated their AC75 finally hitting the water but they weren't the only ones present at its launch. Source: 1 NEWS

“Every team has to be smart because there’s no soft contact with these foil arms hanging out the side.”

It's all a far cry from Spithill's first America's Cup in Auckland, though, as a 19-year-old skippering Young Australia 20 years ago.

He admitted watching Team NZ’s boat recently made him realise just how far the regatta has come since then.

“I’ve been watching the Kiwis and it really does blow your mind when you see the speeds,” he said.

“When you’re on a power boat actually trying to keep up with one of these things, then you get a real understanding.”

Though a true understanding of whose boat is best won’t come until December racing.