Two current stars joined forces to raise over NZ$200,000 to assist two former America's Cup stars in their next quest: the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Russell Coutts and Grant Dalton, CEO's of current champions ORACLE TEAM USA and the challenger Emirates Team New Zealand sparred at a black-tie fundraiser in Auckland, New Zealand, for Richard Dodson and David Barnes.
Dodson stood shoulder to shoulder to Coutts when the pair were together in the Team New Zealand's wins of 1995 and 2000 as tactician and skipper. Barnes' connections with the America's Cup go back earlier to 1998 when he was part of his country's second ever challenge in 1988 as helmsman of the mighty 133ft 'K-Boat' monohull.
Both Dodson and Barnes are now affected by multiple sclerosis and have teamed up with Andrew May, who lost limbs in a road traffic accident, to contest the three-person Paralympic Sonar keelboat class. As Coutts noted in his speech, both Dodson and Barnes have formidable success in early careers to draw upon.
"Dave Barnes was the first New Zealander (with Hamish Wilcox) to totally dominate an Olympic class. He won three straight World 470 titles and not just by a little bit… they often won by miles," noted Coutts, himself an Olympic gold medalist. He took that title in the Finn class having beaten Rick Dodson in the New Zealand trials.
"Rick was a multiple OK dinghy World Champion – a very talented sailor - and was the favorite to represent New Zealand at the Los Angeles Olympics. I had other ideas… so as you might imagine, we were not the best of buddies in those days," remembered Coutts.
Both Dalton and Coutts offered rides on their team's AC72 wingsailed catamarans, boosting the money raised by auction. Veteran commentator Peter Montgomery, who has provided the soundtrack for virtually all of his country's top level sailing success, chaired a Question & Answer session between the two team bosses. As expected, Dalton and Coutts traded verbal blows. The question of whether Emirates Team New Zealand wins the Louis Vuitton Cup and goes head to head with ORACLE TEAM USA will be one of the key story-lines of the 2013 Summer of Racing in San Francisco.
Coutts captured the prevailing mood of the evening when he said: "I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone here in wishing Richard and Dave all the best for their forthcoming preparations. It’s inspirational to see what they are doing and knowing where they came from, I’m sure they’ll perform well."