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Half hull model of 12-metre yacht AUSTRALIA II

Date: 1991
Overall: 131 x 690 mm, 0.75 kg
Medium: Jelutong wood coated with sanding sealer, primer, automotive lacquer
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Half block model
Object No: 00015623
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    This builder's half block model was made by Frank Allen after the 12-metre yacht, AUSTRALIA II.
    SignificanceThis model is a record of the innovations in 12-metre yacht design during the early 1980s, when Australia produced a series of yachts as challengers to the America's Cup. AUSTRALIA II was designed by Ben Lexcen and was the yacht that broke the 126-year American dominance over the America's Cup in 1983. It is a lasting tribute to the 12-metre class before it became outmoded in 1987 and, it represents an important episode in Australia's yacht building history.
    HistoryThe 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 a syndicate headed by Alan Bond, and for both of them it was their fourth challenge for the trophy since 1974. The entire project was kept under a veil of secrecy to protect details of its radical design being passed on to any other syndicates involved in the 1983 America's Cup Challenge.

    The principal element in AUSTRALIA II's success was the winged keel developed by Ben Lexcen. He had trialled endplates and other similar features on rudders, centreboards and keels at different times in his career, starting with a Moth class dinghy in the late 1950s, and then the break-through 18-foot skiff TAIPAN in 1959.

    AUSTRALIA II proved a breakthrough. While one adjustment shortly after launching was to move the keel about 250mm for better balance, the major issue was simply that the proportions and shape gave AUSTRALIA II characteristics that were new to 12-metre yachts. It was stiffer and could hold on to its sail better in fresh conditions.

    The story of the race is now legend. AUSTRALIA II dominated the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series, hardly losing a race. 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. 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. 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 two thirds 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.

    To this day, the 1983 America’s Cup win is considered one of Australia’s greatest sporting triumphs.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Half hull model of 12-metre yacht AUSTRALIA II

    Primary title: Half block model of AUSTRALIA II

    Related People
    Model Maker: Frank Allen

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