Ashby Wins John Cootes Furniture A Class Australian Championships

Glenn Ashby has secured another win for Emirates Team NZ over ORACLE Racing in multihulls – though the results of the John Cootes Furniture A Class Australian Championships were perhaps never in doubt.

Ashby has won the A Class Catamaran World Championships 7 times and was in a different class to the newcomers who had their new boats delivered days before the event started.

Ashby remarked:

‘Every National win is important but this field, with so much depth of talent and competition, is definitely the strongest fleet I have ever sailed against in the A-Cats at ANY level. It’s fantastic, the top guys coming in from other classes, here giving it a go. The fact that these guys want to come sail in the A Class Championships is a giant tick for multihulls.’

In the end, Ashby won easily, with a day to spare, dropping his worst result (a 4th) to finish ahead of Nathan Outteridge, Steve Brewin and Darren Bundock. James Spithill was 5th.

But amongst the ‘rock-star’ pros was 71 year old John Cootes.

Father John Cootes became the first Roman Catholic priest to play international rugby league. He played for Australia as a three-quarter in 1969 and 1970.

Cootes eventually left the priesthood to marry and after retiring from football, Cootes enjoyed a long and successful media career, becoming a sports commentator for Channel 10. From 1979-1983 he was the host of Channel 10′s Saturday Night Live programme. He started a successful furniture store chain in the 1980’s.

In an interview with Sail-World Cootes reveals that some of Australia’s top sailors were willing to help get him on the water in an A Class Cat:

 ”When the Worlds came up I couldn’t help it, I had got to try the A-Cat. Fortunately I bumped into Glenn Ashby on the shore and he said ‘John I have a boat I can sell you.”

‘When I bought the boat, I had no idea how to rig it and I called Bob Fussel and said ‘who is someone that can teach me?’ Bob said call this young fellow. It was Nathan Outteridge – Nathan was my first coach. What a great start. He was great.

And though his sponsorship of the event, John Cootes is also giving back to the sport:

I love the sport. I love the people involved and I have gotten a great deal of enjoyment out of it. I have been very fortunate being successful in business and I am more than happy to encourage the sport itself, the people involved and especially the younger generation (hence the sponsorship of the event.)

James Spithill enjoyed being back in Australia competing with his mates:

A really impressive fleet, 70 boats, and a wonderful regatta. With the curved (dagger) boards, trapezing, Glenn and Nathan are on another level downwind; they are real naturals on the wire while the rest of us look like a bunch of teabags. Just to be able to mix it with Steve Brewin, Scott Anderson and Andrew Landenberger, who have had so much time in these boats, was wonderful.

Myself, Dirk (de Ridder), Tom and Darren are taking our boats to San Francisco. On the trapeze downwind in SFO will be a blast!

The A Class Nationals are one of the events that the America’s Cup are trying to piggy-back on for media during a long break over the Northern Hemisphere winter. The Official site has covered the event with daily updates and ORACLE racing have also pushed their team members’ involvement.

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