Rick Dodson: America's Cup champion to Paralympian
Reviewed by Jenny Nicholls, Waiheke Weekender
Rick Dodson is one of the brightest stars of New Zealand sailing – two-time world champion, skipper of the only New Zealand team to win the Admirals Cup, and strategist to Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth on Black Magic in two America’s Cups. For more than two decades he also co-owned a high-tech company which supplied sails to many a race winning international yacht.
But Dodsons’s business and sporting success is only part of this story.
For years, Dodson competed at the highest levels of his sport despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease which he kept secret. After suffering double vision during the 1995 America’s Cup, he was told his symptoms had been caused by MS, an illness he managed through two more America’s Cup campaigns and a stretch as tactician on the Volvo Ocean Race. After his symptoms became impossible to ignore, Dodson competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, only just missing out on a medal.
A sailing book by Rebecca Hayter, a former editor of Boating New Zealand, is always a great read, and keen sailors will appreciate her mastery of the technical details. Storms Ahead is gripping, funny, scandalous and heartrending in equal measure, filled with anecdotes from the likes of Russell Coutts, in his youth a bitter competitive foe of Dodson, and other members of Team New Zealand. Hayter’s interviews, coupled with memories from Dodson’s immediate family, paints not only a portrait of one of the most vivid personalities of New Zealand sailing, but also of the people surrounding him during an era of glittering success: Peter Blake, Kevin Shoebridge, Tom Schnackenberg and Peter Montogomery, to name a few.
‘Winning the America’s Cup in 1995 is one of the greatest stories in New Zealand sport,’ says Hayter. ‘Rick was a key part of that campaign under Sir Peter Blake and in its wake, he was at the height of his career. Suddenly, it was under threat when he was diagnosed with MS. So the story follows the brutal transition from success as an able-bodied person to sailing as a disabled person. The clock was ticking on his physical abilities but even now, he lives his life by looking ahead and he hopes this book will be inspiring for other people with MS.’