Rod Davis: Why You Need His Wisdom in 2021

I’ve quoted Rod Davis so many times, I should probably send him royalties. His column is one of the main reasons I’ve subscribed to Seahorse Magazine for over 20 years—which, coincidentally or not, is how long he’s been writing for them. Two of my own blog posts have been directly inspired by his writings (America’s Cup: Rod’s Wisdom and 2020 Vision: Think Like a B-Teamer).

So it was a HUGE treat to spend an hour on Skype talking with Rod, at the tail end of my very strange 2020 summer—and just as New Zealand (where he’s lived since 1987) was coming out of their own (successful) lockdown. The excuse was a profile of a guy who, as the Seahorse headline so aptly puts it, requires no introduction. 

Rod Davis (bow) won Olympic gold in 1984, sailing the Soling with Ed Trevelyan and Robbie Haines. (They also won the US Trials in 1980.) In 1992, Rod won Star silver with teammate Don Cowie.

Impressive but humble

Though we did spend a few minutes commiserating on how to deal with a rescheduled 202One Olympics and whether the Games will actually happen (“I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision”), mostly we looked in the rear view mirror. Rod’s has won two Olympic medals and either sailed or coached in every America’s Cup from 1977-2017. He also won the Congressional Cup twice (for two different yacht clubs, in two different countries). These days he’s downsized to the OK Dinghy, where he regularly beats up on much younger competitors.

But the reason I’m such a fan is his ability to step back and analyze performance, without losing sight of the details. He’s also been known to coin new words, such as humbilizing (or, in Seahorse, humbilising). As I put it in the piece, “Self-deprecating kernels of wisdom shoot across the airwaves in a mix of native California drawl and Kiwi twang, further muddled by a worldly mix of word choices and slang.” 

Passion wins

It’s not, apparently, his writing skills that got him that Seahorse gig. One of the surprising personal details I gleaned was that Rod failed high school English and creative writing several times, until “they just gave up and turned a blind eye.” Yet another lesson: passion can take you farther than high school failures might indicate. 

I could go on about Rod all day long, but instead I’ll leave you to read the profile. Seahorse has graciously allowed me to share it in full, but to read future Rod wisdom (and, in the January issue, Julian Bethwaite’s More for Less?) you’ll have to subscribe. The printed magazine can be a long wait until it arrives in a US mailbox, but the e-version arrives on the day of publication no matter where you are in the world (and it’s cheaper, too). 

Thanks to Seahorse for this opportunity, and thanks to Rod for taking the time to share more of your wisdom. (Let me know your royalty rate on pithy but humbilizing quotes.)

What a great way to kick off 2021.

Rod finished an impressive 9th in the 2019 OK Dinghy Worlds. He was 20 years older than anyone else in the top 10.

Previous Seahorse profiles

Rod Johnstone: An Amazing Legacy of Yacht Designs

A Final Conversation with Harry Anderson

Life Lessons from Dave Perry

Vince Brun Profile in Seahorse

Only One Jud (Smith)

2 Replies to “Rod Davis: Why You Need His Wisdom in 2021”

  1. I could not agree more, reading Rod’s article in SeaHorse is a treat each time. And I come away with coaching tidbits each time. I feel honored to have met him at 2012 Soling Worlds, in Milwaukee, WI. He had me laughing, and deep thinking in the same minute. Rod is first on my list if I could afford him as a coach.

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