Rod Davis has had a wonderfully varied career in yachting. He has been involved in 12 America’s Cup campaigns as a bowman, sail trimmer, skipper and a coach. Rod is currently still heavily involved in the sailing scene, coaching teams around the world!
Sailing background - Olympic Soling and America’s Cup
He was born in San Diego in 1955, the son of a former submarine captain. As a youngster, he began sailing a small Sunfis boat while living in Key West, Florida. After his family moved to Coronado in 1969, he sailed Sabots, the small sailing dinghies. Then he began sailing with various crews and boats at Coronado and San Diego Yacht Clubs.
In 1984 Rod, Robert Haines and Edward Trevelyan, represented the United States and won the Olympic Soling title at Los Angeles. They were so dominant they did not even have to contest the final race.
Rod was involved in the 1987 America’s Cup at Fremantle, helping the American challengers, but soon after moved to New Zealand. In 1988 Davis was employed by Michael Fay to be a coach in the Big Boat America’s Cup challenge. The following year he coached the New Zealand Admiral’s Cup team.
In 1992 Davis and Don Cowie sailed brilliantly in a field of 26 competitors to take the Star class silver medal at the Barcelona Olympics. They recorded finishing placings of 4-3-5-12-6-7-5 and, while they could not match high-flying Americans Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel, they did well to edge out the strong Canadian and Dutch entries. Four years later Rod and Cowie were unable to win a second Olympic medal, finishing fifth in the same event at Savannah. They finished with a total of 46 points, a whisker behind the fourth-placed Greeks, though well off a medal.
At Sydney in 2000 Davis and Cowie joined forces with Alan Smith in the Soling, where a controversial ruling deprived them of a place in the semi-finals. In the preliminaries they finished 3-3-10-2-7-3, and along with Norway and the Netherlands qualified directly for the quarter-finals.
Having won two races in the quarter-finals, it seemed they would progress to the semi-finals, but the Dutch appealed, claiming the wording of the rules was too vague, and the New Zealanders had to race off with them. The New Zealanders, after almost colliding with a passenger ferry before the start, lost by two lengths and were eliminated.
Rod, one of the world’s best match-racers through the 1990s, was also involved with the Italian and Danish sailing programmes. In 2004 he was the head coach of the successful Danish Olympic sailing team.
He maintained his links with the America’s Cup. He was the appointed skipper of Michael Fay’s 1992 challenge, though he was replaced late in the contest by Russell Coutts.
For the 1995 America’s Cup contest, he was John Bertrand’s helmsman on OneAustralia. For 2000 he moved on to coach Prada and he was Prada’s tactician in 2003. He assisted Team New Zealand with its 2007 America’s Cup campaign, but by then he was undertaking two important yachting roles - in 2005 he had been appointed Yachting New Zealand’s Olympic Director.
Outside of Sailing, Rod has been heavily involved in various aspects of yachting including:
• Being a Yachting New Zealand as a life member
• Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow
• Columnist for Seahorse Magazine (the top Yachting publication, world-wide)
• Yachting New Zealand Olympic Director
• Colour commentator for SKY Sport at the 2019 49er Worlds
In 2017 Royal Akarana Yacht Club announced the appointment of Rod Davis to the role of Sailing Director. Royal Akarana Yacht Club, already the home of blue water sailing, along with the development of the new Hyundai Marine Sports Centre, provides a future in club sailing in both blue water and class racing, international regattas, sailing academy, marine education and water sports that will be unmatched.
These days, Rod travels around the world coaching teams and speaking at various Yacht clubs. He is married to Team New Zealand stalwart Tom Schnackenberg’s sister, Liz and they have three children.