John Bertrand skippered AUSTRALIA II to a 4-3 victory over LIBERTY, wresting the America’s Cup from the New York Yacht Club, which had held it for 132 years. The great grandson of Thomas Pearkes, the English master engineer who prepared the challenging America’s Cup yachts for Sir Thomas Lipton, John Bertrand had a score to settle. He did it magnificently on September 26, 1983 when he won the seventh race against Dennis Conner and LIBERTY. There had never been a seventh or even a sixth race in the history of America’s Cup racing.
There was no question that AUSTRALIA II was faster than LIBERTY – faster than a challenger had ever been relative to a defender. AUSTRALIA II was built with a secret winged keel that provided excellent windward ability while permitting very low wetted surface in a yacht of minimum rule size, the winning combination for conditions in Newport. In the penultimate race dubbed “The Race of the Century,” the lead changed several times until AUSTRALIA II gained 1 minute and 21 seconds in the crucial sixth leg of the race in a dying southerly wind off Newport.
Bertrand applied a near perfect cover during a 47 tack fight to the finish area and crossed the line 41 seconds ahead of LIBERTY.