CupInfo: Russell Coutts
 


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Russell Coutts Dismissed from Alinghi


 
 

Alinghi has fired the the man who was at the helm of the last three America's Cup winners. The team cited repeated violations of his contractual duties and conflicts of interest as a member of their organization as reasons for the dismissal. Team Press Release

Read Stories at:
NZ Herald
Sport Telegraph

Russell Coutts Responds:
Press Release


The following excerpts and respective links help to show how the story publicly unfolded over the summer of 2004.  Rumors of various levels of discontent between Coutts and Team Alinghi date back at least until the venue announcement in November, 2003, though little of substance was revealed until June, 2004:

Alinghi had to face BMW Oracle in the UBS Trophy Regatta, June, 2004, without either Brad Butterworth or Russell Coutts onboard.  Butterworth was sidelined due to an ankle injury he received in a car crash just before the racing began, while Russell Coutts, who was in Newport, chose not to sail.  Coutts also did not sail on Alinghi in the Mot Cup, in San Francisco, September, 2003.

Ernesto Bertarelli, on the absence of Russell Coutts as helmsman for Alinghi, Saturday, June 19th: "We had Russell on the crew list. We had hoped that he would helm today. I asked him before we left the dock and again on the chase boat, but unfortunately he didnt want to helm. So well rely on Peter Holmberg and Jochen Schuemann for the rest of the weekWe wished we could have had Russell on board. Hes a great sailor and has contributed tremendously to the team. When we realized he wasnt going to sail it was a disappointment, but Im pleased we pulled together and did such a good job. It was a credit to everyone on board to be professional about it and win the races."
 


Russell Coutts may be looking to leave the Alinghi team, or at least preserve his option to sail with another team if he does. According to Howard Ulman, writing Sunday for the Associated Press wire service:  Coutts said he told the Alinghi syndicate last month that he wouldn't be at the helm this week because he and Bertarelli are in mediation over rule 13.12.

"That's the reason why I can't helm this week," Coutts said. If he sailed with Alinghi, "then it may restrict me from sailing with someone else if I don't reach an agreement."

Read the story at the Monterey Herald

From the 32nd Protocol:
13.12   Crew restricted to work for only one Competitor:  A Competitor shall not engage a person in any capacity who has sailed on another Competitor's yacht as a race or training crewmember within a period commencing eighteen months prior to the first race of the Match, except with the consent of all Competitors still competing in the Regatta.  A 17th person referred to in the ACC Rules shall not constitute a crew member for the purposes of this Article 13.12.


Coutts further told New Zealand's Sunday Star Times, June 20 : "I haven't got much to say on the issue right now. We are working through some issues and we are hoping to come up with a resolution to those issues. Both sides are looking for a positive resolution," he said. "I won't be competing this week because of a protocol rule but I am still with Team Alinghi."

Read the story at stuff.co.nz


Monday, June 21, Ernesto Bertarelli took a stronger position speaking to Sport Telegraph's Tim Jeffery:

Bertarelli also indicated that he would resist any attempt by Coutts to join a rival team ahead of the America's Cup, which Alinghi will defend in 2007.

"Right now, I need to protect the team more than anything," he said. "I don't want to find myself in a Team New Zealand situation [when Bertarelli hired Coutts away from the cup holders in 2000]. Frankly, and fortunately, I think I drafted my contracts a little better than Team New Zealand."

Read the Sport Telegraph Story


Wednesday, June 23, Coutts told Reuters News Service: "I hope we can resolve our differences. But it's not out of the question that those negotiations end with us going our separate ways. That's why I want to keep my options open."

Read the Reuters story


When asked how he views his relationship with Bertarelli, Coutts said: "It is like anything. We have had some differences and so forth, but we have had some good times in the past, too."

Coutts would not elaborate on the issues surrounding the relationship breakdown, but it is understood he wanted more say in the running of the cup event. However, Coutts was quick to dismiss suggestions he was in a similar situation to where he was in 2000 when he left Team New Zealand.  "It is nothing like that."

Read the story at stuff.co.nz


Monday, June 28th, an outcome that keeps Coutts at the helm of the defender looks less likely than ever.  Angus Phillips, writing for the Washington Post, included the following in an article assessing the status of Alinghi :

What's going on, say insiders, is an ugly separation that could be permanent. Coutts himself, who spent last week here doing commentary on a spectator boat carrying Alinghi supporters after declining to sail on the race boat, was not optimistic.

"Any chance you can patch this thing up?" he was asked on the dock.

"Probably not," said the dark-haired New Zealander, with a trace of sadness.

Read the story by Angus Phillips


Rich Roberts interviewed Russell Coutts the last week of June, providing a few on-the-record hints about the nature of the issues at hand:

Q: Bertarelli has suggested that you were hired to drive, period.

Coutts: "That's the thing. I had expectations beyond that. Helming was one of my functions, for sure, but I'm not going to go any farther into the details. I'm just hoping that this thing is resolved amicably. I think [that would] be best for the team. If we do choose to part ways, then we'd probably have time to do that."

Q: You do still care about the team?

Coutts: "Of course I do, because I have a lot of friends in there and, as you know, very close friends. I think the worst thing could be is if this drags on. I was hopeful we could resolve it before now."

Read the interview at Yachtracing.com
 


Coutts spoke to Yachting World in early July about his plans, in team with Paul Cayard, to develop a new top level sailing race.  Despite the tone of an earlier article by Rob Mundle in The Australian on July 3, Coutts suggested that this new series would not compete with the America's Cup.  Russell Coutts said that he and Paul Cayard are looking to create a new sort of event, though plans are still in a formative stage right now.  "We are definitely not thinking of doing any event that would try to compete with - or that you could compare with - the America's Cup.  If we do something, it would be entirely different. I think the America's Cup is a great event. It is moving on and has been there for 150 years. It will always be there."

His comments about the Cup itself continue to sound like he won't be seen pursuing the Auld Mug for some time to come, stating that  "...the sport is so much bigger than the America's Cup. I have been in such a narrow and defined field for such a long time - maybe it's good to change track now."

Read the story at Yachting World
 


July 14, 2004, SNG and Golden Gate YC took the step of amending the 32nd Protocol in a way that would prevent certain crew members who leave an existing team from working with another team.  This new provision applies to Russell Coutts, among many others, and would keep him out of the 2007 America's Cup unless he and Alinghi came to terms.  The heart of the changes includes:
 

13.12 a (i) at any time after 2 March 2003, a person who has been contracted, employed, paid or otherwise engaged (paid or unpaid) by a Competitor as a race or training crewmember for a total of 180 or more days may not be engaged (paid or unpaid) by another Competitor in any capacity;
 


July 26, Alinghi released a statement that Russell Coutts had been dismissed for failing to uphold the terms of his contract with the team, citing both his non-participation in Newport and the efforts being made by Coutts to start a new Gran Prix sailing circuit as reasons for the move.  With his lines of escape to other America's Cup teams cut off, it seems that the man only recently hailed as the best sailor in the world will not be able to race again in an America's Cup match until 2010 at the earliest.

Read the Alinghi Press Release

Read the story in the New Zeland Herald
 


Coutts immediately responded with a statement of his own, saying that from his point of view, Alinghi was in breach of the terms of their agreement. 

"In an attempt to address these issues we entered into formal mediation and have been in mediation for some time -- a process I had understood to be still underway. In light of this, I have been surprised by the way he has first insisted on a rule change and then by his decision to issue my dismissal.

"I believe the retrospective rule change Ernesto Bertarelli engineered is indicative of the management style he favours -- and one that, quite simply, I cannot agree with.

Read the Press Release from Russell Coutts


"I'm a pretty determined guy. I certainly want to do the America's Cup again."
 --- Russell Coutts quoted in the
NZ Herald


Coutts may use legal means to pursue the issue of the recent Protocol changes that restrict his eligibility to sail for other teams, telling the Swiss Le Matin August 1: "I am going to defend myself through the legal system.... I have not given up hope of taking part in the next Cup in 2007 in Valencia."

In addition to disputing the validity of the rules changes, Coutts is said to feel any issues of his breach of contract with Alinghi were preceded by broken promises on the part of the team and its owner. "He guaranteed me more involvement, not only as skipper, in the next (America's Cup) campaign. He never honored that pledge," Coutts is quoted as saying.

Read the BBC Story
 


In a mid-August with the Swiss newsweekly L'Illustre, Coutts reaffirmed the growing momentum of a new sailing event (English language report from The Australian).  Coutts is one of the few people to have won both an Olympic Gold medal in sailing and the America's Cup, and another interview around the same time found him considering the possibility of an Olympic sailing effort for 2008 (Story at Extramsn.com). 

Unconfirmed rumors heard elsewhere also play up the possibility of a Coutts-Cayard team making a run at the America's Cup following the 2007 event.  Coutts did point out that he has not had any contact from potential America's Cup challengers, which he felt was understandable given the situation.
 


Apparently tired of certain representations of the situation, Ernesto Bertarelli spoke out to the Swiss publication L'hebdo (http://www.hebdo.ch) September 2, (English translation at CupInEurope).  The article reveals that Russell Coutts came to Bertarelli in February, 2004, with a letter of resignation, frustrated, bored or burned out on the present effort after three winning Cup campaigns.  Bertarelli is shown expressing his own frustration in turn in the interview, citing the fact that Coutts had helped shape precisely the organizational divisions that were publicly being cited as the issues compelling the separation, and that Coutts had all possible control over design and personnel issues.  The article also describes the New Zealander's compensation as a stunningly high amount in the "top 20 in Switzerland", and that Coutts has already been paid 75% of his entire 2007 agreement.

Also see: NZ Herald September 8, 2004
 


Russell Coutts in turn took issue with Ernest Bertarelli's presentation of the conflict, and with what Coutts felt were personal attacks.  Coutts responded through his Public Relations managers with a denial of his former boss's version of their mutual difficulties.  "The facts are that I love the America's Cup." Posted at Sailing Scuttlebutt
 


Novmeber 2004, arbitration process begins in Switzerland.

Read the story at sport.telegraph
 

 

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