Murray Ross, Designer, Sailor
Murray Ross was born in Whangarei, New Zealand in 1950 and was soon into sailing.
He sailed his first New Zealand champs in 1967 in the Flying Dutchman and had his first win at national level the following year, in the Javelin. He has won 41 national titles overall including the Flying Dutchman, Soling, Dragon, quarter tonner, half tonner, one tonner, and the Ross 780, 830 and 930.
He started sailmaking with Hood Sails and in 1970 he teamed up with Brian Jones to establish Ross and Jones Sails, which came to dominate the Javelin and Flying Dutchman markets.
He teamed with Jock Bilger, 14 years his senior, in what became a successful 13-year partnership. “One of the best things I did was team up with Jock,” Ross says. “Tactically, he was good and I had the smarts on boat speed.” They finished second in the Worlds in the Flying Dutchman in 1970 & ‘71 and were favourites for the ’72 Olympics but finished sixth.
Around 1974 he met designer/boatbuilder Paul Whiting, with whom he sailed many regattas and co-owned Smackwater Jack.
In 1976 Ross and Bilger took the Flying Dutchman to the Olympics, but again came home without a medal, despite being runner-ups at the 1975 Worlds.
In 1976 Ross won the European champs and later that year helmed Magic Bus with Whiting to win the Worlds at Corpus Christi, USA. Ross was sailing extensively overseas and bringing home many orders for sails. He and Bilger were cleaning up throughout Australiasia in the Javelin.
In 1979 he designed his first boat, the Ross 780. He had been racing offshore since he was 16 and was sailing about 100 miles a week in coastal races, however, as the 1980 Olympics loomed, he came under pressure from the select committee to concentrate on the Flying Dutchman. He withdrew from his keeler campaigns and he and Bilger won the Olympic trials but NZ boycotted the games, ending Ross’ Olympic hopes.
He and Jones sold the sailmaking business to Russell Coutts and Ross moved more into his design career. The 1980s included: Urban Cowboy, 1982, a Ross 40 which set Auckland-Gisborne record; Ross 930, Ross 830; Satellite Spy, 1986, a Ross 40 which Ross raced extensively with Colin Booth.
In 1985, Ross sailed the Whitbread Round the World race as watchman on NZI Enterprise with Digby Taylor, until the boat was dismasted.
In 1992, he won the Auckland-Noumea race on the Ross 40 Pretty Boy Floyd, beating the 45ft Ice fire by 39 minutes. He began studying weather and did the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race on Fisher and Paykel with Grant Dalton, followed by the 1993/94 Whitbread with Ross Field on the victorious Yamaha.
In the 1990s Ross raced Etchells and did two legs, one victorious, of the 1997/98 Volvo as weatherman/navigator on Toshiba with long-term friend, Dennis Conner.
In 1999 Ross joined Conner’s Star and Stripes America’s Cup syndicate as weather man and helped tune up the boat. He played a similar role for Prada in 2002.