America's Cup skipper Spithill joins Italy's Luna Rossa

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2013, file photo, Jimmy Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, answers a question during a press conference at the America's Cup sailing event in San Francisco. Jimmy Spithill, who skippered Oracle Team USA to two landmark victories in the America's Cup, has joined Italian syndicate Luna Rossa. Luna Rossa, backed by the Prada fashion house, announced the hiring Tuesday, March 13, 2018. It's not clear whether Oracle Team USA's owner, tech billionaire Larry Ellison, will continue on in the America's Cup. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Australian Jimmy Spithill has joined Italian sailing syndicate Luna Rossa

SAN DIEGO — America's Cup star Jimmy Spithill is headed to the Italian syndicate Luna Rossa, leaving the future of Oracle Team USA in doubt.

Luna Rossa, backed by the Prada fashion house, announced Tuesday that Spithill, an Australian, has rejoined the syndicate after 11 years away. He was helmsman in the 2007 challenger trials, when Luna Rossa reached the finals before losing to Emirates Team New Zealand.

Spithill's signing with Luna Rossa, which is the Challenger of Record for the 2021 America's Cup, raises questions about whether Oracle Team USA's owner, tech billionaire Larry Ellison, is finished with the America's Cup.

Spithill skippered Oracle Team USA to consecutive landmark America's Cup victories.

As a 30-year-old in 2010, Spithill became the youngest skipper to win the America's Cup when he steered Oracle Team USA to victory over a Swiss crew in a one-off showdown that was the result of a bitter court fight.

In 2013, he led Oracle Team USA to one of the biggest comebacks in sports. After Oracle fell behind 8-1, he steered the American-based boat to eight straight victories against Emirates Team New Zealand on San Francisco Bay to retain the Auld Mug.

His third go-round with Oracle ended with a lopsided loss to the Kiwis in June in Bermuda.

Spithill wasn't available for comment Tuesday, and representatives of Oracle Team USA didn't return emails seeking comment.

Ellison reportedly is interested in putting together a series that will be contested in the 50-foot catamarans used in the 2017 America's Cup. The 2021 America's Cup will be sailed in radical foiling monohulls.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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