The first challenger to win the America’s Cup, Alan Bond was only 32 when he first turned his sights on the Cup in 1974. Born in England, he immigrated to Australia, where he worked as a sign painter before becoming a successful entrepreneur and ocean racing sailor. In 1974, his Southern Cross won the America’s Cup challenger trails at Newport, Rhode Island; though very fast, she lost the match to Courageous. Undeterred, Bond returned in 1977 and 1980, each year with an improved boat and stronger campaign, each year winning the challenger trials, and each year losing the Cup match. However, in 1980 his Australia won a race and scared the Americans.
Most challengers would have given up after three defeats, but in the spirit of Sir Thomas Lipton, Bond stuck with the Cup. In his fourth try in 1983, he accomplished a feat that Lipton and no other challenger had ever managed: he took the America’s Cup from the New York Yacht Club. His boat was the breakthrough Ben Lexcen-designed 12-Meter Australia II, with a radical, controversial winged keel and superb sails. Skipper John Bertrand and his excellent crew were supported by Bond’s brilliant campaign. Australia II dominated the 1983 challenger trials. Then, in the Cup match, Australia II just nipped the defender, Dennis Conner’s Liberty, in the seventh and last race to win 4 races to 3, and take the Cup to Perth, Australia.
Asked to explain why the America’s Cup means so much to him, Alan Bond said this: “You get out there and you’re as good as the next guy who might be a Vanderbilt. You get out there and all you’ve got is a common element – the wind and the sea – and everybody’s equal.” It is a visionary statement, and Bond made good on it in 1983. For over a century, twenty-four challengers had tried and failed to wrest the America’s Cup from the New York Yacht Club. Alan Bond of Australia finally did it, and that is why he is in the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.