Please select your home edition
Edition
Sailingfast 2018 2 728x90

America's Cup: Sliding Doors

by John Curnow 23 Mar 06:00 GMT
The America's Cup and the Prada Cup in front of the New York Yacht Club's Newport Club House © Carlo Borlenghi

If the 2021 America's Cup proves one thing, it's that design and innovation reigns supreme. It would be easy to focus on large catamarans, even bigger monohulls, perhaps even seeing the Kiwis start foiling the AC72 cats, or their cyclors of Bermuda. Yet in actual fact it goes all the way back to 1987, when New Zealand showed up with the first of the plastic fantastics - the fibreglass 12s.

Iain Murray is an Olympian, three time race director for the America's Cup, and 12-time World Champion sailor, including as recently as 2019 in the Etchells. Notably for us, Murray was there in Fremantle, for he was the Skipper and designer of the three Kookaburras, the final of which would be Australia's defender against Denis Conner's, Stars & Stripes.

Australia went down four nil, and the Auld Mug left Australia's shores, to this day never to return again. We have not seen since the bravado and brashness of an Australia II jacket on the Prime Minister, the hoopla of a boat coming out of the water to have her skirts dropped to reveal a secret weapon. There are no craft adorning street corners or marking out maritime precincts. School children do not learn about sailing and our mighty exploits at the zenith of the sport, unlike our neighbours across The Ditch (Tasman Sea).

No, those opportunities for advancement and galvanising of a nation have been lost to us. The one thing it did not do, however, was stop us producing champion sailors, both inshore and off, and perhaps the last 30 years have been our most rewarding in so many facets, including Olympic glory. Yet when One Australia sank on March 5, 1995, you could easily argue that it took any remaining hope of Australian representation at the highest level with it.

In addition to being the Race Director for the America's Cup, Murray also holds a similar position for SailGP, as well as being Australian Sailing's Director of the Olympic Team as they prepare for Tokyo. Noting the distinct differences between the two nations now, after the Kiwis decades long direct involvement with both winning and losing the America's Cup, Murray commented, "What really hurt was coming back to the dock and seeing hundreds of thousands of people who had believed in you, and feeling like you had simply fallen short; not done your job. It was kind of a funny thing. Australia II had beaten everyone. They were now the defender, and we'd beaten them, but we got thrashed."

For all this time it is more than possible that Murray has shouldered an unfair burden, for the Defender of Record had effectively forced them to use Kookaburra III, when what they really wanted to do was use the intervening time to lengthen Kookaburra II, and use her for the best of seven series against Conner.

"We got a little surprise one night. A meeting had been called at the Commodore's house, at which time they revealed a contract they had with the Bond syndicate stating that one of their craft was to be in the defender final, no matter what. We had to go back out and beat Australia IV again." For the record, they demolished them five nil.

"Looking back, it may have been naïve, but we elected to keep our trial horse to train against each day, rather than cut her up. We focussed on beating Bond, rather than the end game of tackling Conner", said Murray.

In Australian Sailing's Participation Census from a couple of years ago, it was deemed that some 250,000 people were involved with sailing in some form, and just under half of those were paid up members. This did not encompass all of the volunteers who make all of the racing possible, so it is indeed a hefty final figure.

The entire leisure marine industry is worth at least $8.6 billion to Australia, and directly employs some 28,000 people in 2,500 businesses. Yes, this is worth a lot to Australia collectively, and it is not just the GDP ramifications, either.

Back in the prehistoric era, I got first-hand exposure to the saying, 'There's no problem in yachting that throwing heaps of money at has not made go away'. That's definitely true, but perhaps the drive, the will, the enthusiasm and the determination of the nation is a currency that cannot be valued in monetary terms. The Kiwis have absolutely proven that a very lean machine can get the job done, and certainly take their nation forward. Perhaps we can inspect, admire and replicate that... (closely)

Related Articles

History repeating
Here's something very new, as such… Here's something very new, as such... However, in the 60s, another bunch of avant-garde enthusiasts pretty much did the same. Posted on 6 Jun
Your club needs you!
The myriad of sailing and yacht clubs around the world are the life-blood of our sport The incredible surge of growth in grass-roots sailing, and boating in general, relies on the life-blood of our sport, the myriad of sailing and yacht clubs around the world. Posted on 31 May
Cruising altitude…
We looked a lot at the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 during the course of 2020 We looked a lot at the Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 during the course of 2020. Back in July with the world's airline fleet effectively grounded, we used the aviation parlance to reflect on how well the Sun Fast 3300 was doing... Posted on 23 May
When Flares Were in Fashion
The Magnum Moths were style icons that changed the shape of sailing The Magnum design of International Moth began a dynasty of increasingly skinny boats that would start out by rewriting the rule book for dinghy design whilst stretching the UK's PY system to the maximum. Posted on 18 May
Youth show the way
World Sailing's crucial mid-year meeting vote for kiteboarding alternative World Sailing held their crucial mid-year meeting last week to decide the alternative for the Mixed Offshore Keelboat event at the Paris Olympics Posted on 17 May
Hello, my old friend…
So I put the word out... it got heard… and how! So I put the word out back in 52 pick up. At any rate, it got heard… And how! Posted on 9 May
In conversation with Jelte Liebrand
The tech-savvy navigation entrepreneur savvy navvy is the boating app that puts all your essential marine information in one place: tidal graphs, weather forecasts, automatically updated chart data, routing, GPS tracking, marina information and more. We spoke to founder Jelte Liebrand... Posted on 6 May
Alternate reality
Is the Paris 2024 10th medal hammering a square peg in a round hole? This time 40 years ago the drummer Nick Mason released an album called Fictitious Sports. As with his band Pink Floyd, Hipgnosis were called upon for the album art, creating the image you see above, which seemed apt as an intro for this editorial. Posted on 3 May
SailGP season opener serves and frustrates
Incredible logistics and technology needs a little honing I take my hat off to the logistics team that the event happened at all. With a lockdown in Bermuda and the general difficulties in travel, getting eight international teams and the paraphernalia to a small island in the North Atlantic was no mean feat. Posted on 26 Apr
Nurture the roots to enjoy the fruit
The grass roots and professional sides of sailing are connected Without doubt, my favourite day on the water all year is when I run the first Junior Sailing session of the year at my local club. Posted on 19 Apr