Alan Payne, a brilliant naval architect designed Gretel and Gretel II, two of Australia’s first America’s Cup challengers. When Australians decided to venture into the America’s Cup, there were few Australian naval architects capable of designing 12 Meters: no boat of this type had ever been designed and built in that country. Payne had studied naval architecture at Sydney Technical College and the University of New South Wales, and in 1945 was the only Australian naval architect to devote all of his business to yacht building, both sail and power. His 55-foot Solo won the Sydney Hobart race in 1956.
Alan Payne, having created fast lines for numerous racing craft, was the logical person to elevate Australia to competitive Cup status. He set to work on a four-year project in which he analyzed the lines of Vim, America’s best trial horse brought over by Sir Frank Packer. Payne proceeded to test a total of 30 models toward developing Gretel’s design. In the 1962 America’s Cup, Gretel gave Weatherly a run for her money. Gretel was hugely admired for her superiority in fast downwind sailing. This quality won a race for Australia and nearly a second race in a tight series in which Bus Mosbacher and Weatherly defended the Cup for the New York Yacht Club.
In 1970, Payne designed Gretel II for Packer and skipper James Hardy. The new design proved to be an even more dangerous challenger. Racing against Intrepid, which had won the Cup three years earlier, Gretel II was in contention in the first race until a crewmember fell overboard. The Australian boat won the second race on the water, but lost it in the protest room. After Intrepid won the third race, Gretel II took the fourth before losing the series in the fifth. Payne maintained his involvement with the Cup after 1970, designing the 1983 challenger Advance and consulting for a defense syndicate in 1987.