Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dickson returns to sailing

Chris Dickson was a member of the BMW Oracle syndicate for 10 years. Photo / Gilles Martin-Raget
(Source NZ Herald By Paul Lewis)
Chris Dickson, retired America's Cup and international sailor, was surprised to hear he was going to San Francisco.

He'd just come home, well into the two years since he was replaced as skipper of Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle challenge at the America's Cup regatta at Valencia in 2007, happy and contented as an ex-sailor of the professional racing variety.

"You're going to San Francisco," said his wife, Sue, putting down the telephone she'd been on as Dickson walked in on that night last year.

"No, I'm not," said Dickson.

"Yes, you are," she said. "I've just been talking to Rodney Keenan of Evolution Sails and you're doing the Big Boat Series in San Francisco."

Dickson noticed the conv-ersation had gone a totally different way from the calls he answered. Usually, someone asked him to sail for them. Dickson would say no. The phone would be replaced until the next time it rang with someone seeking an end to Dickson's retirement.

"I can't go to San Francisco," he said.

"Yes, you can," said Sue. "Rodney says it's a good boat, a nice owner and a nice bunch of guys.

Anyway, you need to get out of the house. So I told Rodney you'd be there."

"But what's the deal; what's it worth?"

"I don't know. I just told Rodney whatever he thinks will be okay and that you're on board."

So 48-year-old Chris Dickson, one of the foremost names in New Zealand sailing, went to San Francisco last year and was back on the international trail. That, long story short, was how he has ended up among an impressive list of international skippers competing in the Omega match racing championship, which starts in Auckland tomorrow and which is the first event in the Festival of Sailing - followed by the Louis Vuitton Trophy series and the BMW Sailing World Cup final.

Dickson and his crew won everything in sight and, later, Dickson watched the owner of the yacht Vincitore, Jim Mitchell, receive a gold Rolex watch for winning.

"He was beaming, his 80-year-old dad was up there beaming, and I thought; 'Yep, a happy owner, a happy dad - that's what it is all about.'"

However, Dickson's re-appearance among the top ranks does not herald his emergence from retirement and he is not seeking any kind of America's Cup involvement.

"Having retired from the game twice before and ending up going back for various reasons, I suppose I should say never say never," Dickson said. "But I am really not interested in going back to it now. Being a pro sailor on the world tour is hard yakka. You live in hotels and out of a suitcase and you are on the road for long periods of time. That is not for me now. -