Jump to content

Russell Coutts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Russell Coutts
Coutts in 2010
Personal information
Nationality New Zealand
Born (1962-03-01) 1 March 1962 (age 62)
Wellington, New Zealand
Sailing career
Class(es)Finn, AC45
Medal record
Representing  New Zealand
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1984 Los Angeles Finn class

Sir Russell Coutts KNZM CBE (born 1 March 1962) is a world champion New Zealand yachtsman.

Early life[edit]

Coutts was educated at Otago Boys' High School (1975–1979) and is a Life Member of Paremata Boating Club, where he learnt to sail in a P class, and the Ravensbourne Boating Club.[1] At the age of 17, he became national champion of New Zealand in the Laser class.[2]


Coutts' achievements include a gold medal in the Finn class in the 1984 Olympic Games,[3] winning the America's Cup five times,[4] the ISAF World Youth championships, three World Match Racing Championships, numerous international match race wins and IOR, IMS and One Design World Championship victories. As skipper/helmsman in America's cup racing, he has a perfect record with 15 wins and no losses (1995, 2000, 2003). He was CEO of the Oracle Team when it won the America's Cup twice with 14 wins and 16 losses (2010, 2013 and 2017 each time with James Spithill as skipper/helmsman).

RC44 series[edit]

In 2005 Slovenian designer Andrej Justin designed with input from him a new boat called the RC44; a high performance one design racer created for top level racing in international regattas under strictly controlled Class Rules. The concept and the design features of the RC44 are dedicated to the amateur helmsmen racing in fleet racing sailing events.[5]

SailGP series[edit]

Coutts along with American billionaire businessman Larry Ellison co-founded the SailGP professional series in October 2019.[6]

In mid-March 2024, Coutts announced that SailGP would not return to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2025 after the presence of endangered Hector's dolphins on the Lyttelton course led local authorities to cancel racing on 23 March. SailGP organisers had been expecting 22,000 people to attend the event. Coutts criticised "minority interests" particularly the Lyttelton harbourmaster, Department of Conservation, ECan (Environment Canterbury and local Māori iwi (tribe) Ngāti Wheke for what he called "extremely restrictive" protocols on racing.[7][8] In response to Coutt's remarks, Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke and the host city agency ChristchurchNZ defended their marine mammal management plan, with the former saying that SailGP had "knew what they signed up for when they decided to hold the event within a marine mammal sanctuary." University of Otago zoologist Professor emeritus Liz Slooten said it was normal for Hector's dolphins to swim in harbours in autumn and criticised the organisers for not hosting the race in winter.[9] Similar sentiments were echoed by Auckland City Councillor Josephine Bartley and Greenpeace Aotearoa New Zealand Executive Director Russell Norman.[8][10] By contrast, Coutts was defended by former National Party leader and Auckland Business Chamber CEO Simon Bridges who said that interest groups were opposing major events such as the SailGP race across the country.[8] The Platform broadcaster Sean Plunket also made controversial remarks describing Hector's dolphins as the "Down syndrome kids of marine mammals."[11]

In early May 2024, Newsroom reported that Coutts' SailGP was negotiating with the economic development agency ChristchurchNZ over future SailGP events being hosted by Lyttelton. The website also reported that an evening call with Coutts had led to an urgent board meeting at ChristchurchNZ.[12]

America Cup[edit]

In July 2007, Coutts was named CEO and Skipper of BMW Oracle Racing, sponsored by Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), the United States Challenger to the 2010 America's Cup. He was involved in the pre-match litigation between the challengers Golden Gate Yacht Club and Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), in which the court decided that the GGYC was the rightful Challenger of Record. Cup Defender SNG's team was Alinghi. Coutts' yacht USA beat the defending yacht Alinghi 5 by considerable margins in both races.[13][14]

Most observers stated that USA 17's rigid wing sail had given it a decisive advantage.[15]

Coutts again led the Oracle Team as CEO in the next America's Cup match against Emirates Team New Zealand. This match took place in the bay of San Francisco in September 2013. Oracle managed to come back from 8 races to 1 by winning the following 8 races and to defend the cup in the longest America's cup match ever. Both skipper James Spithill and team owner Larry Ellison praised Coutts' role in the defense of the oldest trophy in sports history.[16][17]

World Championships[edit]

Year Competition Venue Position Event
1981 World Youth Sailing 1st
1983 Finn Gold Cup Milwaukee, USA 13th Finn class
1984 Finn Gold Cup Anzio, Italy 7th Finn class
1989 IYRU Match Racing World Championship Lymington, UK 7th Match racing
1990 Soling World Championship Medemblik, Netherlands 8th Soling class
IYRU Match Racing World Championship Auckland, New Zealand 5th Match racing
1991 IYRU Match Racing World Championship Hamilton, Bermuda 3rd Match racing
1992 IYRU Match Racing World Championship Long Beach, USA 1st Match racing
1993 IYRU Match Racing World Championship Perth, Australia 1st Match racing
1996 ISAF Open Match Racing World Championship Dubrovnik, Croatia 1st Match racing
1998 Etchells World Championship Marblehead, USA 2nd Etchells class
2001 12 Metre World Championship Cowes, UK 1st 12 Metre Grand Prix class
Farr 40 World Championships Cowes, UK 1st Farr 40 class
2003 Farr 40 World Championship Porto Cervo, Italy 4th Farr 40 class
ISAF Open Match Racing World Championship Riva del Garda, Italy 6th Match racing
2005 Melges 24 World Championship Key Largo, USA 28th Melges 24 class
2006 Farr 40 World Championship Newport, USA 1st Farr 40 class
2008 TP52 World Championship Lanzarote, Spain 4th TP52 class
2010 Melges 32 World Championship San Francisco, USA 7th Melges 32 class
RC44 World Championship Puerto Calero, Spain 2nd RC44 class
As of 27 September 2015[18]

Olympic Games[edit]

He competed twice at the Olympics:

Other events[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Coutts has been married twice and has three children.[1] His son, Grayson, was previously in a relationship with journalist David Farrier.[19]

In 2021, Coutts criticised the New Zealand government's response to COVID-19 and suggested that the government was acting like a dictatorship by establishing vaccine mandates and enforcing managed isolation.[20] In 2022, he announced that he would be attending the anti-mandate protest in Wellington.[21]


In New Zealand, Coutts was honoured with appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1985 New Year Honours[22] and then elevation to the rank of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1995 Queen's Birthday Honours.[23] He was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours,[24] and redesignated as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in August 2009.[25]

Coutts has been named ISAF Sailor of the Year twice.[citation needed] Other awards include:


  1. ^ a b "Russell Coutts – sailor of fortune". NZ Herald. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  2. ^ "There's money in sailing – Sir Russell Coutts named on NZ's rich list". mysailing.com.au. Retrieved 4 September 2023.
  3. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Russell Coutts". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 4 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Russell Coutts | America's Cup Winner, NZ Yachtsman | Britannica". www.britannica.com. 26 February 2024. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  5. ^ James Boyd. The RC44 Phenomenon. Sailing World. 24 January 2017
  6. ^ "What is SailGP?". Yachtracing.life. Archived from the original on 30 December 2023. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  7. ^ Coutts, Russell (23 March 2024). "SailGP will not return to Christchurch - Russell Coutts". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  8. ^ a b c "Auckland councillor Josephine Bartley says Sir Russell Coutts' 'entitlement' is 'unbelievable' after SailGP drama". Newshub. 25 March 2024. Archived from the original on 10 April 2024. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  9. ^ "Sir Russell Coutts slams 'extreme' dolphin policy after SailGP races canned". Radio New Zealand. 24 March 2024. Archived from the original on 16 April 2024. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  10. ^ Norman, Russell (26 March 2024). "SailGP not worth killing dolphins over as Russell Coutts signs up to war on nature". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 4 April 2024. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  11. ^ "Sean Plunket, Cam Slater in nasty argument over Down syndrome dolphin comments". Newshub. 27 March 2024. Archived from the original on 10 April 2024. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  12. ^ Williams, David (8 May 2024). "Coutts' call prompts urgent board meeting over SailGP". Newsroom. Archived from the original on 11 May 2024. Retrieved 12 May 2024.
  13. ^ "America's Cup". Archived from the original on 15 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  14. ^ "America's Cup". Archived from the original on 17 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  15. ^ "America's Cup". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Resurgent Spithill sings Russell Coutts' praises". Stuff. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  17. ^ Yacht Magazin. ""Das war wie ein Märchen" – YACHT.DE". YACHT.de. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  18. ^ "Biography". Members.sailing.org. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  19. ^ "David Farrier in same-sex relationship". 28 July 2012 – via www.nzherald.co.nz.
  20. ^ "Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Sir Russell Coutts accuses Government of 'dictatorship' in social media post". NZ Herald. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  21. ^ "Sir Russell Coutts to join Parliament protest heading into eleventh day". Stuff. 17 February 2022. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  22. ^ London Gazette (Supplement), No. 49970, 28 December 1984; retrieved 10 January 2013.
  23. ^ "Queen's Birthday honours list 1995". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  24. ^ "Queen's Birthday honours list 2000 (including special list for East Timor)". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 5 June 2000. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  25. ^ "Special honours list 1 August 2009". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 5 April 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Lorbeer für alle". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 2 July 1994. Retrieved 17 May 2012.

External links[edit]