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The America's Cup Game box

Date: 1983
Overall: 400 x 500 x 255 mm, 200 g
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Peter Shaw
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Box
Object No: 00044397

User Terms

    HistoryAUSTRALIA II has Australian and international significnace as the yacht that won the 1983 America's Cup challenge against the USA and ended the longest winning streak in sporting history. It was a celebrated and radical design from Ben Lexcen featuring his winged-keel concept.

    The 12 metre class yacht AUSTRALIA II was built by Steve Ward in Cottlesloe, WA and launched in 1982 at Fremantle. It was designed by Ben Lexcen for an Australian syndicate headed by Alan Bond to race in the 1983 America's Cup series.

    The principal element in its success was the winged keel developed by Ben Lexcen. It was also a well funded and prepared challenge, and won the exciting series by defeating the American defender LIBERTY 4-3.

    AUSTRALIA II dominated the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series, hardly loosing a race. The mysterious keel had not been revealed, but it was evident that it was matched with superb sails and excellent crew work showing that the syndicate was well prepared in all areas. Onshore the concern of the Americans was obvious as they sought to have AUSTRALIA II banned by trying various legal moves, all of which were frustrated by both the officials running the contest, and the powerful Bond syndicate spokesman, Warren Jones.

    Led by skipper John Bertrand the crew's confidence was high leading into the America's Cup series, but they were well aware of the task ahead racing against LIBERTY helmed by Dennis Conner. Gear failure was a significant factor in AUSTRALIA II's first two losses, yet it was also apparent that AUSTRALIA II had enormous potential, and this showed through when it dominated the third race. Another loss in the fourth race put them on the brink of failure, but the pendulum swung back in AUSTRALIA II's favour when it responded with two comprehensive wins to level the series at 3-all. After all the earlier protest by the Americans about fair play and legal interpretations they then produced one of their own. LIBERTY had multiple rating certificates, a loophole the Australians had not explored. It meant they could quickly optimize the ballast, trim and sail areas to suit anticipated conditions without having to request officials re-measure the hull, and as the final race approached and was then postponed, LIBERTY's crew made changes to optimize the yacht for the anticipated conditions.

    It almost worked. A re-invigorated LIBERTY was now able match AUSTRALIA II's speed and in the final race LIBERTY led comfortably into the final downwind leg. Rounding the top mark almost a minute behind the Australians used better tactical skills to make a bold move and find better breeze on the opposite side of the course to the Americans. In addition, AUSTRALIA II's superior spinnaker shape allowed them to sail marginally faster and 2/3rds of the way to the leeward mark AUSTRALIA II came back to the middle of the course and defiantly crossed underneath and ahead of LIBERTY, gaining the lead for the first time. This was the defining move of the race of the century. On the last upwind leg to the finish line AUSTRALIA II's ability to tack quickly and maintain speed, attributes of the winged keel, helped it to keep ahead and remain in control throughout as the LIBERTY crew attempted to wear them down with a long tacking duel.

    The win was one of the greatest international sporting triumphs ever, and without the extraordinary design of AUSTRALIA II, it is unlikely that such a colourful and intense event would have occurred. In 1988, in recognition of the yacht's importance it was acquired by the National Museum of Australia, and in 1991 AUSTRALIA II went on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Plans were then made for the vessel to be moved to the new wing of the Western Australian Maritime Museum at Fremantle, WA. AUSTRALIA II was moved from the ANMM in 2000, temporarily put back into sailing trim to take part in the 150th Anniversary of the America's Cup at Cowes in 2001, and then put on display at WAMM in Fremantle where it now remains.
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