February 2013

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Australia II and Liberty

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

A thousand boats had gathered on Long Island Sound to witness the spectacle, among them a US Navy destroyer. Helicopters buzzed overhead and the Goodyear blimp floated in the sky. It was the afternoon of 26 September 1983.

For more than four hours, two 12-metre class yachts had been fighting a gruelling series of duels as they tacked and manoeuvred through the choppy waters and gusting winds off Newport. At stake was an ornate silver jug that had been in the exclusive possession of the New York Yacht Club for 132 unbroken years. For most of those years, it was an object of indifference to all but a small number of enthusiasts and patricians. But it was a prize coveted by both sailors and millionaires.

Sir Thomas Lipton, the tea mogul, backed three unsuccessful attempts to win it. Before he married Jane Fonda, Ted Turner both owned and skippered a successful defender, Courageous. Nor were Australia’s rich men immune to the lure. In the ’60s, Frank Packer hazarded his hand with Gretel and Gretel II and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron took a shot with Dame Pattie, named for the prime minister’s wife. Australian cheque books and seamanship proved no match for the Americans, however, until Alan Bond arrived. Three times he financed attempts at the cup, failing in the effort. But by 1983, one step ahead of his bankers, he had a secret weapon.

Australia II was lighter than a conventional 12-metre and its winged keel gave it exceptional manoeuvrability. It also had another advantage. John Bertrand, the skipper, realised that its revolutionary upside-down design had the potential to psychologically unsettle his opposite number, Liberty’s hyper-competitive Dennis Conner. An air of secrecy and controversy was confected around the boat. When it was unloaded on the dock in Newport, it was hidden behind a shroud and guarded night and day.

By comparison, Liberty was a tub when she was racing downwind. But Dennis Conner was the best sailor in the world. He’d already won the cup twice. He told his crew to put winning it above everything else in their lives.

Things did not start well for Australia II. In the first race, its steering failed. In the second, a pin holding up the mainsail broke. But in the third, it won by the biggest margin of any challenger ever. In a cliffhanger ending to the deciding seventh race, Australia II pipped Liberty by a mere 41 seconds.

Four years later, the Americans won back the cup. No Australian challenge has been mounted since 1995, when One Australia broke apart and sank on television. In 2003, the America’s Cup was won by the Société Nautique de Genève, finally putting landlocked Switzerland on the map.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: February 2013

February 2013

From the front page

An Orchestra of Minorities

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Close to Home: Selected Writings

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Climate Justice

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Pub test: 2018

The only way is up


In This Issue

Students sitting a selective school entrance exam. © Peter Rae / Fairfax Syndication

The secret life of them

What it takes to shift class in Australia

Toulouse-Lautrec, National Gallery of Australia, Until 2 April 2013

Toulouse-Lautrec

National Gallery of Australia

David Walsh. © Matthew Newton / Newspix

The gambler

At home with David Walsh

‘Inheritance’ by Balli Kaur Jaswal, Sleepers Publishing; $24.95

‘Inheritance’ by Balli Kaur Jaswal


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Les Murray

Les Murray’s magisterial ‘Collected Poems’

How to approach a 736-page collection by Australia’s greatest poet?

Image of a bushfire

Fair judgement without surrender: Chloe Hooper’s ‘The Arsonist’

The author of ‘The Tall Man’ tries to understand the motivations of a Black Saturday firebug

Still from Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski’s perfectly formed ‘Cold War’

Not a moment is wasted in what could be the Polish director’s masterpiece

Still from I Used to be Normal

Female fandom and Jessica Leski’s ‘I Used to be Normal’

They’ve been dismissed and patronised, but Beatlemaniacs, Directioners and other fangirls are very self-aware about their boy band ‘affliction’


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image from ‘The Beehive’

The lady vanishes: ‘The Beehive’ at Sydney Festival

Zanny Begg and Philippa Bateman on their enigmatic film that explores the unsolved disappearance of Juanita Nielsen

Image from ‘Primavera’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art

‘Primavera 2018: Young Australian Artists’ at the MCA

This exhibition of the up-and-coming asks complex questions about who we are

Fusion

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Zebra and Other Stories

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer


×
×