Story: Sailing and windsurfing
Page 7 – The America’s Cup
Australia’s win, 1983
The America’s Cup is the world’s premier yachting trophy. In 1983 Australia II made the first successful challenge to US dominance since the cup was won by the schooner America in 1851. Consequently, some New Zealanders became aware of the potential to take it from the Australians.
Presenting the challenge
Preparing for the competition involved many top sailors, designers and builders, raised public awareness and enthusiasm, and put New Zealand’s yachting prowess in the international spotlight for many years.
Unsuccessful challenges, 1987–1992
New Zealand’s first challenge in 1987 was mounted by a group led by merchant banker Michael Fay at Fremantle, Western Australia. The radical fibreglass yacht, New Zealand, did well in the preliminaries but was beaten in the finals by the US Stars and Stripes. Sailed by Dennis Conner, it took the cup back to America.
In 1988 another challenge was fought out in San Diego by two freakish boats – New Zealand’s enormous KZ1 and an equally inappropriate catamaran from Conner. The ensuing court battles served only to forge a consensus that an appropriate yacht be used in the future.
The 1992 challenge in San Diego resulted in a narrow defeat of the New Zealand boat NZL20 by the Italians in the challenger finals, and the cup remained in the US.
San Diego success, 1995
In 1995 there were two Kiwi boats at San Diego, Chris Dickson’s NZL39 and Black Magic, skippered by Russell Coutts, with Team New Zealand led by Peter Blake. Black Magic lost only one of 43 races, led round all 30 marks in the finals series, and trounced Dennis Conner's Young America 5–0.
Sock it to ’em
During the 1995 finals of the America’s Cup in San Diego, leader Peter Blake wore red socks, which he believed brought good luck. In the enthusiasm of the finals, many New Zealanders donned red socks.
By the turn of the century the radio yachting reporter, Pete Montgomery, was a household name, and the base for the teams at Auckland’s Viaduct Basin proved a major attraction.
The defence of the cup in Auckland in 2000 was a clean-sweep victory for Russell Coutts with NZL60. The key team members then split up very publicly so that, for the second defence in 2004, the spark had gone out of Team New Zealand.
Team New Zealand’s defender had serious structural problems. Ultimately the Swiss Alinghi, which was sailed by New Zealander Russell Coutts, took the cup.
In 2007 Team New Zealand again competed for the America’s Cup. The team won the challengers’ Louis Vuitton Cup, but was defeated by Alinghi in the finals, 5–2. It was a very close contest, and the last race was lost by just one second.