Don Cowie had a long and successful career in sailing, including competing at three Olympic Games and in several America's Cup campaigns.
In 1992 Cowie and former American Rod Davis 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 Cowie and Davis 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 they 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.
Aucklander Cowie was part of the winning Japanese Kenwood Cup team, sailing Tiger, in the early 1990s. In 1993 he helped Russell Coutts' team win the world One Ton Cup, and was part of the German team that won the Admiral's Cup that year.
His America's Cup involvement began at Fremantle in 1986-87, when he was a sailmaker in Michael Fay's first challenge. He was a trimmer in 1988 on the Big Boat challenge, and was with New Zealand in 1992. Cowie coached the Prada team for the 2000 Cup and in 2003 was with the One World team.
He was the New Zealand yachting section team manager at the 2004 Athens Olympics.