Russell Coutts: “I hope the other teams perceive us as being impossible to beat”

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Valencia Sailing

The four-time, and most probably five-time two years from now, America’s Cup winner talked to our colleague Michele Tognozzi from FareVela Net about the 34th America’s Cup and his team. Russell Coutts is currently in Cagliari, racing on his team’s RC44 yacht.

FareVela Net: One month to go until the first AC World Series in Cascais. What are your expectations?
Russell Coutts: It’s very exciting. Now, with the new rules more teams will have possibilities, the big teams… and some of the new teams that are interesting. The Korean Team, for example, they are choosing good sailors. I know who they are but I cannot say their names because they have not already announced them. China Team will have a real challenge this time, not as in 2007. We hope in one french, people say that in the multi french guys are always very good. On the AC45 sailors will be very important. It’s really physical, the more athletic boat I have ever seen. Good sailors will make the difference.

FareVela Net: Talking about athletic guys, what do you think of Luca Devoti’s choice to call the super fit guys from the Finn Class?
Russell Coutts: Well, it’s a nice idea but I would have opted for a more balanced team: two or three from the Finn, a couple from the 49er, ex multihull and Tornado sailors. I can say that on the AC45 all the crew hike like damned men, the only one that doesn’t hike is the helmsman. The boat is very fast, hard to sail and spectacular. The AC45 is a very athletic boat. People are going to be surprised, it’s a big physical challenge and I think the 72 will be more so…

FareVela Net: If we need to hike hard, nobody can do it better than the finn sailors, you won a gold medal in the Finn class and I think you know it…
Russell Coutts: Yes, I do, but this is only my opinion, I would have preferred more balance. This is for me one of the good things of the new format. Open the America’s Cup up for some of the sailors. In the old format they didn’t have a chance of coming in but now I think that it is much more open.

FareVela Net: You have changed the Protocol from an A version, hard to enter, to a B version, easier.
Russell Coutts: It was an idea from Team New Zealand, so they pushed to have the World Series on the AC45. I think it’s a good idea. We probably got more teams because of that, maybe some later entries. So for this economy I think it’s a very good result. We have a good series and I think it’s going to be very competitive.

Russell Coutts at the helm of Oracle Racing AC45. San Francisco, 11 June 2011. Photo copyright Guilain Grenier / Oracle Racing

FareVela Net: What will happen with the AC72 in 2013. Can all these teams achieve the final goal?
Russell Coutts: No, I don’t think all of them, but I think many of them could make it. Because of the changes you can’t launch the 72 before July next year and you are restricted on the amount of time, and that saves a lot of money. So I believe that somebody that is… smart with the money, sensible, could have a competitive campaign for 40, 50 million euros. I believe that this is the case. Even though some of the big teams are just saying it’s “impossible”, I think they say impossible for the “owner” reason… You know…

FareVela Net: That means…
Russell Coutts: Their budget is so high so they can not justify to the owners if they spend less money…

FareVela Net: There is a question I have to make now. Do you think that at this point of the game it is possible for any team to beat Oracle Racing? And what about your technical advantage looking at 2013?
Russell Coutts: I think the good teams, not just with money, with the “smart” approach could be very good.

FareVela Net: You mean new ideas?
Russell Coutts: Yes… but I hope we win.

FareVela Net: That’s for sure, but we think that a good competition is important for the sport…
Russell Coutts: For sure, but I hope we can win and I hope the other teams perceive us as being impossible to beat. You know what I mean?

FareVela Net: I see that you are laughing…
Russell Coutts: Of course I hope they believe that, if I were them I would not believe it, but I hope they believe it.

FareVela Net: Let’s speak about something that our readers will find very interesting: your capsize. How was that?
Russell Coutts: I made a mistake and when you make a mistake in these boats you’re going to be in trouble. A stupid mistake. Really, but I am learning where the limits are. To sail these boats fast you need to know where the limits are, you need to push to the limits.

FareVela Net: But it looks dangerous, maybe more dangerous on the AC72…
Russell Coutts: Yeah, it can be… in the 72 for sure, yes it is definitely part of the game, because I think the more risk you take the faster you go. So, for sure you’re going to see people pushing too far… I am sure that I would capsize again, I am sure because I like to win, you know, so I am going to push it hard…

FareVela Net: The first word you said after the capsize?
Russell Coutts: Shit… just shit.

Shit... Russell Coutts capsizes. San Francisco, 13 June 2011. Photo copyright Guilain Grenier / Oracle Racing

FareVela Net: What about your programs?
Russell Coutts: One boat has been shipped to Europe now so we’ll arrive just before the regatta and we have been doing a lot of training in San Francisco, in strong winds. We feel well prepared for the first event, hopefully we win, that’s our goal, you know. Each race we race we’re going to be trying to win.

FareVela Net: Last September in Valencia you said that the sport needed to be changed. Are you really changing the game? You feel that what you are doing is the right thing? Some people are complaining about that. Your “Facebook” sailing generation will really be the future?
Russell Coutts: I think so, the real answer is… many of the big television broadcasters now want to cover AC racing, that was not the case before. The sport needed to change, to become more exciting, more athletic, younger, faster, more challenging, and these boats are just tactical as the old boats, just happening at high speed. The match racing is still a very good match race, with similar tactics to before. It is still the same chess on the water, still like that but much more action, much higher speed. I think that it is better for the sailors and the fans that watch the sport.

FareVela Net: So, you don’t feel to have done something against the international sailing community…
Russell Coutts: If we manage… let’s say… 500 hundred million more viewers looking at our sport it’s a good or a bad thing? That’s the answer, of course it’s a good thing. The Youth America’s Cup… it’s been developing to bring young sailors to race at the pinnacle of the sport. Some of the old sailors are complaining because they have no job anymore.

FareVela Net: For sure, this is an important aspect…
Russell Coutts: …but eventually we have to make way for the young people. The young guys come through and start winning in this format. On the old format we had a lot of grey here on the boat, I still have grey here but you won’t see much grey here on the new boats.

FareVela Net: Last question, what is your favorite boat to sail?
Russell Coutts: The AC45, right now. Fantastic, really fantastic, it is such a machine… you get that feeling…

FareVela Net: But the AC45 still needs sailors or engineers?
Russell Coutts: The good sailors are going to be the good sailors. I think even more so, because the sailors would need to be more athletic. You need to be smart, to be an athlete, to be a good tactician. I think this is making the sport more interesting.

14 Comments For This Post

  1. Stingray Says:

    What a bunch of crap! This guy is the world’s biggest lier

    How many “young” sailors does Oracle have on their 2 boats? None

  2. Ross Says:

    Jimmy Spithill?

  3. Steve Says:

    Only the Australians had any plans to have young sailors on their team and on their boat.And now they dont look like thay have 80m Euro to do the job!

  4. Cristian Alberto Palau Cabrera Says:

    “The match racing is still a very good match race, with similar tactics to before”…. I don’t know to which match racing Russell Coutts is referring to, as in upwind legs the AC45 will only do 3-4 tacks, and in downwind legs it will be straight line sailing.

    If someone could explain to me of which match racing Russell Coutts is talking about, I’ll be really grateful, but so far, in the 3, 4 months since the first AC45 was christened, I’ve only seen AC45 sailing at great speed (over 20 knots) in straight line.

    If anyone has any doubt of this, please check the pictures of the training that ORACLE Racing has been doing in San Francisco, CA, and you will see what I mean.

    Best regards,

    Cristian Palau

  5. ELVSTROM Says:

    Coutts is right on the money. Anyone that pines for the old ACC keelboats just doesn’t get it. What was so exciting about watching a 80′ keelboat go updind at 9.9 knots? And the big technical breakthrough makes is go 9.91! And the only teams that can affford that big improvement is Ernie and Larry. The Cup has always been about money, people and technology.

    Where is it written in the deed where it states that it’s about “match racing in closely matched keelboats”. And why is everyone so upset that these “professional sailors now need to work like the rest of us? They should have seen this shift comming a mile away. The people that want to be on the AC cats bad enough have put in the work on conditioning themselves,training, A cat’s or whatever. That folks that didn’t have the foresight are off match racing in Korea or sailing TP 52′s. Good for them. The Cup is now for quick, talented sailors, going fast. The Cup cycle is not responsible for keeping old, trustfunded, keelboat sailors employed. So what if Brad Butterball isn’t onboard. What did he do anyway recently? Lose the Cup?

    I’m really sick and tired of all the naysayers, the footage out of Auckland and SF so far has been better than anything “Cup” related since Perth. What’s wrong with that? Wait until they get to the AC72′s.

    Frankly, I had seen enough of the ACC boats. Time to move on. Some people just like to complain. The best racing ever is being served up to us viewers on a silver platter and the masses just bitch about it. The only reason that Oracle might win is because the challengers are not that bright.
    Artemis – Monohull designers
    Green Comm – Finn Sailors
    Energy – Justr raise money and get sailing
    Aleph – No money
    Korea – 1st time
    China – 1st time
    Australia – No money
    Team NZ – best chance to win
    Venice – 1st time

    Origin would have been really competitive in my opinion. Top 2, for sure. Same with alingi. But where is is stated that a first time challenger has to be insured of being competitive? When we all watched the Oracle triamaran crush Alingi – you knew it was never going back. Why didn’t Sir Keith just hire Jimmy and Pete Melvin that day? Advantage erased. It’s so simple. Oracle hired lots of Alinghi people – Origin could have done the same.

    How is this line up any different than the Cup in the last 50 years? The cup has always been about the richest men on the planet going at it. Listen to a few recent interviews by Dennis Conner on this very subject. He is 100% behind the boats, the format, Russell and Larry. Wake up, Armchair sailors!

  6. ELVSTROM Says:

    The match racing that Russell is refering to will be much more exciting that what we are used to watching in keelboats.

    The ACC was slow motion, even during a taking duel. Why can’t we just admit that Russell and Larry are brilliant sailors with vision and they are creating a great competition that will be exciting and thrive for years to come. Read Paul Cayards recent comments in The new edition of Seahorse – “why didn’t I do this sooner?” These guys are never going back!

    If match racing was so damn exciting, then why aren’t we watching the Match Race Tour Live?

  7. H Says:

    Actually we are watching the World Match Race Tour Live in some events, as we are watching Audi Med Cup live, both monohulls. We were also watching Louis Vuitton Trophy Live in the IACC and all are/were very exiting.

    If Multihull-racing is so incredibly exiting, why are we not watching Extreme Sailing Series Live? Why have all the leading circuits until now been sailed in monohulls?

    I guess it is because the majority still favours it.

    Paul Cayard has made his choice, and are doing puppy statements for OR. How stupid would he be, trying to make sponsors use their money, and at the same time saying he would like to go back?

    It is not to long ago, after sailing the AC45, Artemis Racing helmsman, said his favourite racing boat was the TP52. Strange huh?

  8. help Says:

    BS Elvstrom.. i dont care who you are or were. The Iacc boats were amazing to watch. the anticipation of which boat could sail higher or faster and tack well, put up the kite better, perfect the kite drop and generally design and build a fast boat within that old rule was amazing.Let alone the skill level required to read the course , the wind and the tides. It was great to watch and until we see another mono hull for this event it will never be the same. If Multihulls are so great why does 80 percent or more of the sailing world stick to mono hulls. answer that. Coutts did this for revenge and dont ever forget it. All the rest is political BS. Im looking forward to watching the 45′s but its no different to watching the extreme 40′s. The glamour has gone. BORING. Lets wait and see how many people turn up in Cascais. The harbour better be full of super yachts or the truth will be clear.

  9. Hank Clewstrop Says:

    Well said

  10. WetHog Says:

    I loved the IACC boats as much as anyone, but 9 times out of 10 the boat leading at the first mark won. The AC32 Cup match was exciting, but only because the Kiwi’s made it so with dumb ass mistakes. Having said that, I would of preferred the Cup remain in Mono’s. Regardless, Russell Coutts has won more Cups and done more sailing then probably anyone that will comment on this site, so he gets the benefit of the doubt from me.

    In the end though, when it comes to comments on this site, haters will continue to hate.

  11. help Says:

    But WetHog,
    Do you understand why russ went for monohulls. Im telling you it was for revenge and the rest is just political BS. It grinds my ass that people continue to be blind to what is really going on here. We are all now between a rock and a hard place and no one has the balls or the money to challenge anything he says or does. Its just rolling along and everyone just has to go along with it if they want anything to do with the Cup. I know, I know…haters gonna hate… If you dont like it get out .. and all that crap, but at the end of the day i and so many others feel that this is not good for the cup and hope to hell the kiwis win it and take it back to mono hulls.

  12. Mark Says:

    “help” is right that the ACC yachts were still interesting for sailors. However the TV networks and non-sailors were uninterested – hard to sell sponsorship, so teams needed a wealthy individual. (TNZ is unique because of the sports attitude in their small country)

    There is logic for the AC45 to get on TV, more sponsorship, new blood, make sailing a bigger sport, blah blah. If it doesn’t succeed, then back to the days of hoping for a billionaire.

  13. help Says:

    Maek.. Fair comments. agreed.

  14. acintel Says:

    “…the real answer is… many of the big television broadcasters now want to cover AC racing, that was not the case before…”

    Pleeeeease Russell, give us just three names of broadcasters so we can assess your statement!



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