20 NZ Olympic Moments: No. 19, Race was only half the battle for Coutts

By Dylan Cleaver

Herald sports writers Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat count down 20 Great New Zealand Olympic moments.

You could argue that the decisive moment in this regatta came in the first race, when American John Bertrand - not of Australia II fame - the favourite for gold, was disqualified after touching Coutts' bow on a port-tack.

Bertrand had crossed the line first in that race and, hypothetically, if he hadn't received the penalty, his total would have bettered Coutts' eventual winning score of 34.7. Bertrand accumulated 37 points and Canadian Terry Neilson was third on 37.6.

Which is all pretty exciting, but nothing compared to the drama that lay in wait for Coutts after the final race.

His clothing was less than half a kilogram over the 20kg allowance. On the verge of the cruellest disqualification, Coutts called for another weigh-in ... and another. During the third, he carefully arranged his drying garments and came in under weight, thus confirming the gold he had won on the water.

It was also revealed that Coutts was dealing with a fairly unpleasant affliction during the regatta. He had developed boils on his bottom, not a great experience, you would think, while in engaged in a sport where you're often sitting in the wet, with salt literally being rubbed into your wounds.

It was up to his father, Allan, to lance the boils each morning - is there nothing a father wouldn't do for his son?

It was to prove a one-off moment of glory for Coutts, who has gone on to achieve little in his sailing career ... except three proper America's Cups (and one Mickey Mouse one), joining Charlie Barr and Harold Vanderbilt as the only skippers to have achieved that feat.

Oh, you can chuck a few world match-racing titles in there as well.

He's also a knight of the realm, which must count for something, has designed - together with Slovenian Andrej Justin - the RC 44, a high-performance, one-design racer, and is Larry Ellison's point man at Oracle Racing.

There is a rapidly diminishing element of people who will never forgive the way he left Team New Zealand, but perhaps they would do well to remember Coutts the Innocent, when he was a 22-year-old with a saltwater grin and sores on his behind, desperately hoping his gear would dry before he had his gold medal (which, out of the blue, he one day dropped into an envelope and sent to his alma mater, Otago Boys' High School) ripped from his grasp.

- NZ Herald

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