The recent history of the Americas Cup for Australia

Brett Gibson October 11, 2013 0

Americas Cup AustraliaIt’s been pointed out to me, even be die hard aussie sailors, that not everyone is as into the America’s Cup as I am. Not everyone has the background knowledge or know how to go and learn the recent history of the America’s Cup. So here is the recent history of the Americas Cup for Australia.


“Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”


Most Australian’s know that something happened in 1983 with Alan Bond and a Winged Keel when we won it. Then Prime Minister Bob Hawke let fly his most famous quote and “Land Down-Under” became our Sporting Anthem. But what has happened since? Ask most Australians and they wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened next. All they know was 1983 was special.

Let’s get a few things clear for a start. The America’s Cup is traditionally about 2 people with pockets full of Cash challenging each other to a boat race. It requires a mix of sailing skill, design, engineering, project management and fundraising. The first race in 1851 only featured 2 boats and it was that way until 1970. It is governed by the rules iun the Deed of Gift.

For the 1970 America’s Cup, interest in challenging was so high that the NYYC allowed the Challenger of Record (the original yacht club presenting the challenge accepted for the match) to organize a regatta among multiple challengers with the winner being substituted as challenger and going on to the Cup match. This innovation has been used ever since, except for the default Deed of Gift matches in 1988 and 2010. – Wikipedia

Any Yacht club can be the Challenger of record as long as it is on an arm of the sea and hold annual regattas. This fact will be important later. You earn the right to be Challenger of record by being the first to be accepted by the defender, or winning the right in a Challenger series (commonly known as the Louis Vuitton Cup).

1987 Freemantle Western Australia.

This was the first time that a country other than America was able to set the Rules of the America’s cup and as a result the laws governing Nationality requirements for crew, design and engineering teams started to be relaxed.


The first Defence of the “Auld Mug” outside of America allowed Australia to sail in friendly waters. The Iain Murray led Kookaburra III, desgined by Murray  and John Swarbrick won a defender series for the Right to represent Royal Perth Yacht Club. 3 other Australian syndicates entered the defender series including Alan Bond’s Australia IV, .
There were 13 Challenger syndicates from 6 countries. Dennis Connor’s Start and Stripes 87, representing San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC), won the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to Challenge Kookaburra IV.

In the Finals, Dennis Connor won the best of 7 series 4-nil and went back to San Diego, in February 1987, with the Americas Cup.

1988 Mercury Bay Challenge – The Kiwi’s BIG BOAT Challenge

3 8In July of 1997 there was a Challenger given to the SDYC by a rich Kiwi Michael Fay. It was a challenge

which was based on a strict reading of the Deed of Gift. The Fay challenge stipulated that the boats to be sailed would be defined only by the details of the Deed, namely single masted yachts no more than 90 feet (27 m) at the waterline and that the race would be held the following year in 1988. He proposed to bring a 90 foot racing yacht for his challenge boat. – Wikipedia

Some legal wrangling ensued as the Americans wanted to keep running with the 12 metre class. But the Kiwi’s won a court case and they headed to Mercury Bay San Diego with their “Big Boat – a 90m Mono-hull  It was an ugly beast of a thing. Reading into the Deed of Gift the American’s realised that multi-hull boats were rule legal and put together a the first Catamaran in the Americas Cup.

The American’s won by a long way and the kiwi’s took them to court on the basis that the vastly superior, speed-wise Catamaran was not in the spirit of the Deed of Gift ie “not in the spirit of friendly competition between countries”. A bit more court case wrangling and the American’s came out on top and the Kiwi’s went back to Auckland with their tail between their legs.

1992-2007 The International America’s Cup Class (IACC) years.


Year/Location Defending Club Boat Challenger of Record Boat Result
1992 San Diego San Diego Yacht Club – USA America3 Compagnia Della Vela di Venezia – ITA Raul Gardini, Il Moro di Venezia 4-1
1995 San Diego San Diego Yacht Club – USA Sail America, (Young America) Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron – NZ Team New Zealand, NZL-32/Black Magic 0-5
2000 Auckland Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron – NZ Team New Zealand, NZL-60 Yacht Club Punta Ala – ITA Prada Challenge, Luna Rossa 5-0
2003 Auckland Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron – NZ Team New Zealand, NZL-82 Société Nautique de Genève – SUI Alinghi, SUI-64 0-5
2007 Valencia Société Nautique de Genève – SUI Alinghi, SUI-100 Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron – NZ Team New Zealand, NZL-92 5-2

A few special notes about the races/politics of the IACC years.

Dennis Connor lost to Russel Coutts in 1995. This was to be the first win for Coutts. It was also the year when the Australian syndicate oneAustralia broke up and sunk to the bottom of the ocean off San (2)

Coutts successfully defended in during the 1999-2000 series against the Italian Challeger Prada. It was the first time an American boat was not involved in the Defence or Challenge for the Cup. Australia was represented by a syndicate led by Syd Fischer. A young Jimmy Spithill was the skipper at just 19. Iain Murray and Sir James Hardy were involved in the program. YoungAustralia wasn’t at all competitive usng 2nd hand boats and not a lot of funding.

It was after the 2000 defence that several key members of the New Zealand team defected to the Swiss sailing team Alinghi, Russel Coutts included. Many of them taking up residency in Switzerland. This is up there in New Zealand sporting folk law with Susie the Waitress at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the Under-arm bowling from Australia in the Cricket World Cup. But this was their own betraying them for the Swiss money.

In 2003 the Kiwi’s were up against Ernesto Bertolli’s Alinghi, representing  Société Nautique de Genève (SNG). SNG with their ex-pat Kiwi crew and Coutts at the helm won the Louis Vuitton cup and the right to Challenge. They won the America’s Cup 5-0 and took the Cup back to Europe for the first time in 152 years.

SNG basically tossed out all of the rules of the Deed of Gift apart from “countructed in country” as the only Nationality requirements for the 2007 edition of the Cup. It was held in Valencia, Spain. It needed to be as Switzerland is land locked and its pretty hard to race big boats on Lake Garda. There were 11 challengers from 9 countries with New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge (from Italy) racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals. This was the first time we saw BMW Oracle Racing enter an Americas Cup cycle, they got booted out by Luna Rossa in the Semi Finals. New Zealand won the LV Cup 5-0 and went onto face Alinghi in the America’s Cup.

Alinghi successfully defended the Cup 5-2. They soon accepted Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) as the Challenger of record and set about planning for the 33rd America’s Cup to be held in Valencia. By this time Larry Ellison had hired Rusell Coutts and James Spithill to lead their BMW Oracle campaign.

Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) filed its own challenge for the Cup and also filed a court case asking that CNEV be removed as being unqualified under the Deed of Gift, and that GGYC be named the challenger, being the first club to file a conforming challenge.

There followed a long and acrimonious legal battle, with the New York Court of Appeals finally deciding on 2 April 2009 that CNEV did not qualify as valid challenger, and that the GGYC was thus the rightful challenger – Wikipedia

Basically CNEV was ‘dummy’ yacht club that had never held an annual regatta and was pretty much a sham. Similar to a fictional yacht Club in Yass.


2010 – the DoG Match BMW Oracle Team USA vs Alinghi

The 33rd America’s Cup was eventually sailed in massive 90m multi-hull yachts. BMW Oracle racing representing GGYC built a trimaran with the worlds largest ever built wing-sail and Alighi sailed a soft-sailed Catamaran. The American syndicate was dominant winning the 1t of 3 races by 15 minutes, the 2nd race by 5 minutes. The 33rd America’s cup featured a little over 4 and a half hours of sailing.

2013 – The 34th America’s Cup – Foiling Cats

Coutts and Ellison set up redesigning the rules for the 34th Americas cup to make it more TV and spectator friendly. The 34th America’s cup would be sailed in-shore close to San Francisco’s shore line and in massive solid wing sailed 72 foot Catamarans. The America’s Cup World series, to be sailed in smaller 45 foot catamarans, was developed to allow challengers to get used to sailing with solid wing sails and catamarans. This was held around the globe, there were three regattas in 2011, five in 2012, and two in 2013.

AC34SFMayD1_1809The AC-72 as a new class was new to all and the Kiwi syndicate was able to find a loop hole in the design regulations to allow the 72 foot boat to sail on foils. it was found in the lead up to the America’s Cup finals that Oracle Team USA had engaged in actions of Gross misconduct by altering their AC-45 boats during the ACWS. As a result their were penalised 2 points for the Finals by the independent Jury. Derek De ridder was also removed from the event. young Australian Kyle Langford took his position.



On May 9, 2013, Swedish team Artemis’ first AC72 yacht flipped resulting in the death of Olympic gold medallist Andrew James Simpson. the boat was Skippered by Australian Olympic Gold medallist Nathan Outteridge.


Team New Zealand cruised through  the LV Cup, beating Luna Rossa in the Round Robin (Artemis abstained from the Round robin to complete building their second boat). Luna Rossa beat Artemis in Semi Finals.

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After benig down 8-1 in the Finals, Oracle Team USA with 4 Australian’s onboard Skipper, Jimmy Spithill, Tactician Tom Slingsby, Wing Trim, Kyle Langford and Jib trimmer, Joe Newton came back to win 9-8 and retain the Cup for GGYC.




201? – Hamilton Island yacht Club Challenger of Record

image11The owners of Hamilton Island yacht Club and multiple Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race winner Wild Oats XI, Bob and Sandy Oatley were accepted as Challenger of Record for the next America’s Cup.

Bob Oatley - Owner of Wil Oats XI

That means Australia will have a Challenger for the first time since Young Australia in 2000. Bob and Sandy Oatley will have the ability to negotiate with GGYC the details of the next America’s Cup although the Defender has the most say in these negotiations.