Coutts keen on cats

Amer­ica’s Cup le­gend and 1984 Olympic sail­ing gold medal­list Rus­sell Coutts gave a rare and open pub­lic talk in Orewa last week. Rod­ney Times chief re­porter Kerry Gal­lagher was there.

Rodney Times - - FRONT PAGE -

EX­CIT­ING Amer­ica’s Cup rac­ing is pre­dicted by Rus­sell Coutts.

The yacht­ing star is thrilled with the ad­vent of cata­ma­ran rac­ing, the yachts be­ing de­vel­oped from AC45s built at Or­a­cle’s Wark­worth fa­cil­ity.

Coutts spoke openly on life in the yacht­ing fast lane to about 150 peo­ple at Orewa Col­lege last Wed­nes­day.

Coutts helped raise about $4000 for the restora­tion of St Stephen’s her­itage build­ing in Whanga­paraoa. Fa­ther-in-law and St Stephens parish­ioner Peter Lit­tle of Tin­dalls Bay helped or­gan­ise the Or­a­cle Rac­ing chief’s talk.

There were rev­e­la­tions about his early sail­ing days, his pro­fes­sional sail­ing ca­reer, and about his in­volve­ment with Or­a­cle look­ing for­ward to the 34th Amer­ica’s Cup in San Fran­cisco.

He also talked of deal­ing with the at­ten­tion yacht­ing fame has brought – hav­ing to flee out of back doors into wait­ing cars to avoid me­dia, for ex­am­ple. And try­ing to keep a low pro­file when news­pa­pers were full of spec­u­la­tion, much of it un­true, he said.

His wife had tried to avoid read­ing any sto­ries. On one oc­ca­sion they were in a Taka­puna cafe, us­ing news­pa­pers to cover their faces.

‘‘Break­fast came and we put the pa­pers down, and right next to our ta­ble were Chris and Sue Dixon. We were about to race in the chal­lenger fi­nals. He thought it was a game.

‘‘ I in­tro­duced my wife Jenny, who had cho­sen not to read the me­dia. ‘ Jenny, this is Chris and Sue Dixon’. And she said ‘and what do you do for a job? I said ‘this is Chris Dixon. We’re rac­ing him next week in the chal­lenger fi­nals’.’’

But he had en­joyed unique ex­pe­ri­ences, even valu­ing his con­tro­ver­sial time with Alinghi.

‘‘It was like the Blues run­ning out on to the House of Pain.’’

Coutts also spoke of his ex­cite­ment at the new cata­ma­ran classes.

The AC45s will be used in Amer­ica’s Cup World Se­ries re­gat­tas and teams will build their own AC72 class yachts for the Louis Vuit­ton Cup and Amer­ica’s Cup in 2013.

Whereas the older boats were slow and ‘‘hardly ever passed each other’’, Coutts says the new classes will pro­vide the most chal­leng­ing rac­ing with more pass­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. The new boats were also able to sail in a wide va­ri­ety of con­di­tions, mean­ing rac­ing would not be can­celed as of­ten.

The prospect of rac­ing in San Fran­cisco Bay for the 2013 Amer­ica’s Cup was also ex­cit­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally, rac­ing had been held in open wa­ter. But that had made it al­most im­pos­si­ble to see from the shore. Now it would be im­pos­si­ble to miss.

‘‘We will now have the best sailors on the fastest boats, with the oc­ca­sional cap­size or crash,’’ he says. ‘‘I can’t wait.’’

Back in New Zealand tak­ing a break from prepa­ra­tions, he is spend­ing some time in Whanga­paraoa where his par­ents-in-law live.

And he is happy to be back and help out with a good cause.

‘‘There are ad­van­tages in be­ing over­seas,’’ Coutts says.

‘‘But liv­ing here, the qual­ity of life is sec­ond to none and we en­joy be­ing back here and be­ing part of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.’’ Auck­land Zoo’s pro­posal to ac­quire two young fe­male Asian ele­phants has been ap­proved by the Auck­land Coun­cil strat­egy and fi­nance com­mit­tee. The vote came af­ter re­as­sur­ances the ac­qui­si­tion would come at zero cost to ratepay­ers and that an­i­mal wel­fare and con­ser­va­tion would re­main pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tions for the zoo. Mayor Len Brown says the de­ci­sion is an im­por­tant step as the new Auck­land im­ple­ments its strat­egy to be­come an events cap­i­tal and a des­ti­na­tion rather than a gateway. The ele­phants are likely to ar­rive at Auck­land Zoo in the sec­ond half of next year. You should have re­ceived your gen­eral elec­tion and MMP ref­er­en­dum en­rol­ment pack to­day. A concern for the Elec­toral En­rol­ment Cen­tre in post­ing nearly three mil­lion packs to el­i­gi­ble vot­ers is the num­ber of dis­placed Christchurch res­i­dents, which in­cludes a num­ber in Rod­ney-Hi­bis­cus Coast. ‘‘There will be spe­cific in­for­ma­tion for Christchurch res­i­dents in their en­rol­ment up­date packs,’’ cen­tre na­tional man­ager Mur­ray Wicks says. ‘‘If you’ve had your mail redi­rected to where you are staying, your en­rol­ment up­date pack will be sent there. If you don’t re­ceive your up­date pack, you can find all the in­for­ma­tion you need on www.elec­tions. org.nz, or by call­ing 0800-36-76-56.’’

Bear­ing away: Rus­sell Coutts spoke frankly to an au­di­ence at Orewa Col­lege last week.

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