Life was made a little tougher in San Francisco for the New Zealander, who did not lose a race on his way to winning the opening event of the year, the Lymington Cup. He was pushed by California's king of the water, Paul Cayard, before winning the best-of-five semi-final, 3-2. He had no problems with his opponent in the final, Morgan Larson, winning 3-0.
Now Coutts has only to win one of the remaining three races - at Sete, France, next week, New York in September or Bermuda in October - to pocket the prize, although undoubtedly his crew of Simon Daubney, Brad Butterworth and Warwick Fleury would be hoping to share in the spoils.
It is an objective that Coutts, who could not contest the events last year because of America's Cup-winning commitments, has felt is well within his reach. He also has his sights on claiming back the No 1 slot in the world ranking, held by Ed Baird, the American who was his coach in San Diego.
Cayard has moved from southern to northern California to lead the St Francis Yacht Club's AmericaOne challenge for the America's Cup, which Coutts will defend in Auckland in 2000. Cayard has already recruited the designer Bruce Nelson and tactician John Kostecki from John Marshall's Pact 2000, which produced the 1995 defender boat, Young America, and which is masterminding the New York Yacht Club's challenge.
The principal backer of the San Francisco club is Jim Clark, a founder of Silicon Graphics. Their budget is expected to be in excess of $30m.Reuse content