Sitting down with Russell Coutts
Published on October 2nd, 2019
British Double Olympic gold medalist and sailing broadcaster Shirley Robertson has launched her new monthly Sailing Podcast, and in her sixth episode she is joined by sailing royalty Sir Russell Coutts for an hour of conversation in which the pair discuss Coutts’ love of the sport, his determination in helping the sport grow worldwide, and how a career out on the water is helping shape his vision for the future.
Robertson talked to Coutts in the build up to Round 4 of the exciting new sailing championship, Sail GP, held in Cowes, on the UK’s Isle of Wight. A global series raced in the world’s fastest foiling multihulls, Sail GP is Coutts’ passion, and as it’s CEO, he’s determined to establish the series as the sport’s premier racing property. Coutts reveals his thinking behind the new championship tour, and discusses his hopes for the future as the inaugural season comes to a close.
Coutts’ early career saw him establish a well-deserved reputation as a fearsome competitor, and ruthless and driven sailor with a will to win and a skill and understanding that evolved from his simple, unadulterated love of racing boats. An Olympic Gold Medal and multiple Match Racing World Championships soon established Coutts as one of the world’s leading talents. With his early career in mind, Robertson and Coutts discuss the modern Olympic arena, as Coutts reveals his thoughts on making the sport as appealing and accessible to today’s younger generation.
“I say let’s give them the choices and adopt that as a sport, rather than saying ‘hey, we’ve done this for fifty years this way and we don’t necessarily want to change it’. I’m not saying we should be flippant about changing but when there’s a compelling argument to really change them I think we should look at it.”
With a rich career spent racing at the very highest level, Coutts now spends his time trying to shape the future of the sport that’s seen him achieve so much. In discussion with Robertson, his passion and drive is clear to hear, as he reveals his thinking behind SailGP and how he’s not just hoping to attract new fans, but rather to inspire a new generation of upcoming sailing professional, establishing role models and developing a clear pathway that will allow young talent to pursue a route to professional status.
“I’m obviously passionate about the sport, this has been my life, and in many ways if we can create something that the kids of today and tomorrow are going to aspire to be a part of, and they can create their own dreams around, and that it becomes aspirational, then we’ll have something, and to be honest that’s something that’s been missing.”
Much of Coutts’ fame within the sport of sailing has come from his prolific record battling for the illusive America’s Cup. He has won sailing’s most prestigious prize five times, at the wheel of a race yacht, he has never lost an America’s Cup match and has won it for three different nations.
It’s a period of his career though, that he is reluctant to dwell upon, but even so, he reveals to Robertson his thoughts on the sensational comeback in San Francisco in 2013, but also reveals much about his character as a sportsman as he discusses the scenes and emotions of challenging his home country of New Zealand for the Cup in Auckland.
“We were towing out, (on Alinghi) and I remember there was a Maori Haka on the point, there were hundreds, thousands of people and you’re driving out through that and you could just see, the intensity of it, on people’s faces, it was as if there was almost this war mentality you know.”
Shirley Robertson comments:
“When establishing my early career in competitive sailing, Russell Coutts was at the pinnacle of the sport, he seemed unbeatable, he was establishing a precedent as a professional athlete, at the top of his game, but also with a commercial edge, a world class yachtsman yes, but also a team builder, a leader, and as we all know, a winner.
“With that in mind it’s been fascinating to listen to Russell’s thoughts on inspiring the newest generation, as I listen in the knowledge that he himself has already inspired many. It’s a gripping insight into the mind of one of the most influential men our sport has seen for decades.”
Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.