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.
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.