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Storms Ahead – Rick Dodson: America's Cup champion to Paralympian - New biography

by Eduan Roos, Yachting NZ 8 Jun 2023 15:20 PDT
Rick Dodson aboard Black Magic as the Kiwis cross tacks with the Defender - 1995 America's Cup, San Diego © Sally Simmins

Rick Dodson is widely regarded as one of New Zealand's most outstanding sailing talents - a multiple national and world champion and America's Cup winner before multiple sclerosis left him debilitated.

In a new book, yachting journalist Rebecca Hayter tells Dodson's inspiring story of adaptation, determination and relentless optimism. Storms Ahead – Rick Dodson: America’s Cup champion to Paralympian is a candid report of the challenges for Dodson, and his family and friends who support him in living independently and to achieve his goal of a book about his life before and after MS.

Rick Dodson played his life the same way he won races, by looking ahead. It won him two world championships in the OK dinghy, national championships and victories in some of New Zealand sailing’s greatest moments. For more than 25 years, Dodson was a co-owner of North Sails NZ Ltd on its rise to the top of world sailing technology.

The book’s star players include characters and yachts of New Zealand sailing – yachts such as Goldcorp, which Dodson skippered in the 1987 Admiral's Cup, and that was marred by allegations of cheating by the British team; Propaganda, which Dodson skippered to victory in the 1988 One Ton Cup; and NZL32 and NZL60, which won the 1995 and 2000 America’s Cups respectively.

With Dodson's memory impacted by MS, the book has considerable support from his contemporaries. Sir Russell Coutts, Murray Jones, Joey Allen, Don Cowie, Matt Mason and Jeremy Scantlebury contributed in-depth interviews, recalling the glory years of the 1980s and the high-rolling success of the America’s Cup as they share one of the great stories of mateship in New Zealand sailing.

But during the 1995 campaign, as Dodson looked for the top mark, he occasionally saw double. Within two years he was diagnosed with MS. His initial strategy was simple: keep the MS secret.

He had another decade at the top of his game before MS took him out of professional sailing.

In 2012, Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie suggested Dodson team up with former America’s Cup skipper, the late David Barnes who had also developed MS, to compete in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Kiwi Gold Sailing’s Paralympic campaign is an enthralling, yet brutal, comparison to Dodson’s earlier campaigns and includes extensive interviews with Rick’s crew, disabled sailors Chris Sharp and Andrew May, as well Rick’s close family and his coach Don Cowie.

"Rick’s career developed in a time when New Zealand sailing was growing up,"’ Hayter says.

"Storms Ahead is a chance to get close to some of New Zealand sailing’s greatest characters, observe the techniques that made Rick and his crewmates such brilliant sailors and to appreciate the value of looking forward rather than backwards in life’s journey."

Hayter has written about New Zealand sailing for more than 30 years. Her previous books include Oceans Alone, Wild Seas to Greenland, and What You Wish For – one man’s guide to life, death and alternative therapies (co-written with the late Paul Blacklow).

Storms Ahead – Rick Dodson: America’s Cup champion to Paralympian will be launched at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron at 5pm on Thursday 6 July 2023, with guest speaker Joey Allen.

The book will be available to purchase at the launch or, alternatively, order your copy now from www.rebeccahayter.co.nz.

To attend the launch, please RSVP to

Storms Ahead – Rick Dodson: America’s Cup champion to Paralympian by Rebecca Hayter, Oceanspirit Publishing, 220 pages, 60 b&w/colour photos, $39.95.

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