Iain Murray has one of the most diverse and remarkable track records in sailing. The Sydney-born polymath is a yacht-designer, boatbuilder, offshore sailor, Olympic competitor, Olympic coach, and multiple 18ft-skiff world champion. Iain’s career in the America's Cup is just as varied, entering the sport as a young skipper in the 1980s to now serving as one of the most highly regarded regatta directors in the history of the competition.
Iain’s journey in the America’s Cup began in 1983 in Newport, Rhode Island, racing aboard Syd Fischer’s (ACHoF Class of 2017) ADVANCE. But this 12-Metre yacht performed poorly in the challenger trials given that she was radically-optimized for only very light winds and the team was constrained by a modest budget. But it was a valuable experience for Iain, as the second youngest skipper in the America’s Cup up to that date. It was another Aussie team, AUSTRALIA II, which famously won that year in 1983, becoming the first challenger ever to win sailing’s Holy Grail.
For the next match, in 1987, four Australian teams vied for the right to defend the Cup for the Royal Perth Yacht Club of Fremantle, Western Australia. Iain joined Kevin Parry’s Perth-based Taskforce ’87 syndicate, to skipper and co-design, with John Swarbrick, three 12 Metre yachts, all named KOOKABURRA.
Thanks to Iain's design and sailing skills, KOOKABURRA III emerged as the winner of the defender series and secured a place in the America's Cup match. Unfortunately, KOOKABURRA III lost to the formidable STARS & STRIPES, skippered by Dennis Conner (ACHoF Class of 1993). Nonetheless, Iain became only the second person in the history of the Cup to race in the match as both the skipper and the designer of a competing yacht—the Canadian challenger Alexander Cuthbert having first achieved this feat in 1881.
Further Cup campaigns saw Iain as CEO and lead designer of SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA in 1992, before his final sailing campaign with John Bertrand’s (ACHoF Class of 1993) oneAUSTRALIA, which famously broke in half during the 1995 Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials in San Diego.
Iain was just 19—as designer/builder/helmsman—when he won the first of six World titles (1982-1997) in the fiercely competitive Australian 18-foot skiff class. He is a double Etchells World Champion and represented Australia in the Star Class at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Iain is also highly respected as a coach and held the role of Sailing Director to the Australian Olympic sailing team for the 2020 games in Tokyo. Murray has competed in multiple Admiral’s Cups plus 26 Sydney-Hobart races.
Iain was the regatta director of the 34th Americas Cup in San Francisco in 2013. Quietly spoken but strong in resolve, Murray has been known throughout his career as ‘Big Fella’. His steadiness brought reassurance in the summer of 2013, when British sailor Andrew Simpson lost his life while training with the Swedish challenger Artemis Racing. Being appointed regatta director for the next three America’s Cups—Bermuda (2017), Auckland (2021) and Barcelona (2024)—is compelling evidence of the enormous respect that the yachting world holds for Iain Murray.