Water sports in New Zealand and The Americas Cup

Being a country that is made up of two major land masses it is hardly surprising that water sports are very popular in New Zealand. Sailing, canoeing, rowing, and swimming are sports that are popular, and New Zealand has been successful in international competition in them over the years.

Rowing

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray double gold winner Olympians

There are 65 rowing clubs in New Zealand, and 150 secondary schools have a rowing program. The annual highlight of the schools rowing is the Maadi Cup which is for the Under 18s Rowing Eights which regularly sees 2100 youngsters competing for this trophy. The highlight for senior rowing are the world championships and the Olympic Games. Since the 1968 Olympic Games, New Zealand have won 11 gold medals, and since 1998, 24 world championship golds have been won and have produced some remarkable rowers.

Hamish Bond won the 2012 and 2016 Olympic coxless pairs with Eric Murray. They also broke the world record and won 7 gold medals at the world championships. He is currently taking a break from rowing to concentrate on road cycling and has just been picked to represent New Zealand in 2017 world championships. Another double Olympic gold winner is Mahe Drysdale. He won Olympic gold at both London and Rio, plus also winning 5 gold medals at the world championships. He has won the New Zealand sportsman of the year award on 5 occasions, and no one has won that prestigious award more.

Sailing

Sir Russell Couts with the Americas Cup

New Zealand has a wonderful reputation in sailing, and this has stemmed from having a strong local boat building industry. In 1864, Robert Logan emigrated to New Zealand, and the success of the Logan Brothers set the standards in boats that would lead later to great national success.

One of New Zealand’s most famous sailors is Sir Russell Couts who has twice skippered the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to victory in the America’s Cup in 1995 and 1999. Having previously won a gold medal in the Finn Class at the 1984 Olympic Games, Couts is now the CEO of the American based Oracle. Being the only non-American team to have won the Americas has really cemented New Zealand’s reputation in yachting. This has been further strengthened as its sailors have won 14 Olympic gold medals, and the country with its 1500 km of coastline will continue to be a force in international competitions.

Canoeing

Canoeing and kayaking are popular in New Zealand. The rugged terrain is ideal for waterways that people can explore in their boats. The popularity is both in an outdoor pursuit and also racing. Two New Zealand men pushed canoeing forward in the 1980s with their success in the Olympic Games. Ian Ferguson won four gold medals and one silver medal in the 1980 and 1984 Games. At the same Games, Paul MacDonald won 3 gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal. Recent success has been achieved by Lisa Carrington winning the gold medal in the K1 200 meters in both 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

Swimming

New Zealand has always produced good swimmers although it has not quite achieved the international successes that many other sports have. The country has a mission to make sure that every child can swim and they have organised an extensive education programme. Swimming clubs are spread widely across the country, and many coaches have been trained to help educate the young. Swimmers who represent New Zealand are known as the “AquaBlacks”, and the most famous is Danyon Loader. At the 1996 Olympic Games, Loader won both the 200 and 400 meters freestyle, and became New Zealand’s sportsman of the year in 1996. The value of watersports in New Zealand is reflected by the number of occasions the sportsman of the year has come from the water.

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