Five-time America’s Cup winner Sir Russell Coutts is floating the idea that Queenstown might be able to stage the world’s most famous yachting regatta.
The part-time Wakatipu resident – event authority CEO for the 2017 America’s Cup in the North Atlantic island of Bermuda – was asked this week if Auckland could host the event again.
While saying that it’s a long way for teams to go, he adds: “I think it’s good that it moves around, it’s good for the sport, and why not have it in Queenstown?”
And he’s not joshing.
Coutts says that land-locked Switzerland, whom he won the cup for in 2003, could have hosted the following regatta.
And this year the cup broke new ground with a qualifier in Chicago – Lake Michigan became the first freshwater venue in the event’s 165-year history.
That lake’s much bigger than Lake Wakatipu, but Coutts says that the modern format is for racing to be held on tight circuits, close to the shore.
The course need only be two kilometres long – three, at most – “so you could set a course easily”.
“You don’t need much width either.”
The Dunedin-raised yachting legend is a big fan of lake sailing, especially for learners, “because you get a hell of a lot of wind changes/wind shifts”.
Lakes, he says, are a good platform for sailors to learn the direction and speed of the wind on.
This Saturday he’s bringing his O’Pen Bic youth sailing programme to the Wanaka Yacht Club, in conjunction with former Team New Zealand teammates Barry McKay and Hamish Pepper.
In January, he’ll also have a hand in running Bic regattas in Dunedin, Wanaka and Queenstown.
Auckland-based Coutts – who built a large home on the Crown Range about seven years ago – says he and his family venture down as often as they can.
“We just love it down here.”
If circumstances permit, he’ll spend even more time here in years to come.
“My two boys [15 and 10] are mad-keen skiers, that’s their number one sport.
“My daughter , she snowboards.”
His favourite local field is Treble Cone – his kids prefer Cardrona.
Coutts describes his own skiing as “pretty average”.
“Amazingly, our family didn’t ski, which was crazy.”
Interviewed after a round at The Hills, near Arrowtown, he says his golf’s “crap” – despite having his own private course, designed by Queenstowner Greg Turner, nearby.
“But I love playing it, it’s one of those social games … you can spend time chatting to people, which is great.”
Coutts says he advises visitors to NZ to spend three-quarters of their time in the South Island.
“Everyone talks about the scenery, and of course the scenery’s absolutely magic, but the people are great, too.”