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THAT Australian flag - flies at Australia's largest regatta

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World Team on 26 Jan 2011
Windspirit’s Australian II flag - Audi Victoria Week 2011 Teri Dodds /Audi Victoria Week http://www.teridodds.com
When John Bertrand and his Australia II crew won the America’s Cup in Newport, Alan Bond and the support crew delivered a giant Australian flag to Australia II which was hoisted to the mast top, along with the iconic boxing kangaroo battle flag.

That 48 foot x 24 foot Australian flag was at the time, the largest flying flag in the World.

The Australian flags that now fly atop the Australian Parliament and the Sydney Harbour Bridge have been cut from that original pattern.

Today the flag that fluttered in Newport on that historic day flew on Corio Bay Geelong, as part of the Australia Day (Australia's founding day holiday) celebrations at the 2011 Audi Victoria Week, atop a cruising division yacht called Windspirit, one of 400+ boats competing.

Why and how did this iconic flag get to Geelong?

After the Australia Day Sailpast we spoke to Royal Victoria Yacht Squadron member and Windspirit owner/skipper Terry O’Hare, who came to Australia as a '10 pound Pomme' at age 17, just seven years after the end of World War II.

With a background in cabinet making, the young O’Hare became involved in automobile coach building, succeeding there then moving into truck repairs and truck stops and many more things with ongoing success.

Terry O’Hare explained. ‘It t all started off with another project I had in the middle seventies. I built the big truck stop out of Campbellfield (Victoria), next to the Ford Motor Company, called Truck City.

‘A lot of people know of it because it was a landmark in those days. It was one of the first really big truck stops. Trucks Stop of Australia (TA) was the same initials as Trucks Stop of America and TA had the same symbol so we adopted their symbol and the Americans adopted us, virtually, and we ran quite a big operation.

‘While I was in America checking out truck stops I saw the biggest flying flag in the world, or at least they claimed it was.

‘I took on the challenge of building the biggest flying flag in the World, on the tallest flagpole of that era.

‘The flagpole we put up was 122 feet and this flag, which we flew today on Corio Bay, is the original flag built by Evans and Evans, which we originally flew on that flagpole. It is 48 foot wide by 24 foot drop.

‘I claimed in the Guinness Book of Records and held that record for quite a number of years until my fellow Aussie Dick Smith knocked me off. He commissioned one that was 50 feet by 25 feet.

‘We got wind that he was building it so we got another company to build one for us 60 feet by 30 feet.

'Smith only held that record for about a month. The new 60 by 30 flag is too big to fly off a flag pole, but I have still the flag and we sometimes fly it off the helicopters.

How did the flag get on Australia II?

‘I was asked to be the Logistics Manager for the Australian base in Newport. It was an unforgettable three months. I took the flag with me.

‘So we took it out to Australia II and it was flown with the smaller Boxing Kangaroo flag.

'Prior to that, just a few days earlier, it had been flown from a very big building in New York. We bribed the security guards to let us up there; it was flying across New York one morning just before we actually won the America´s Cup. It was on television.

‘This original flag has been to every America´s Cup since then, that same flag. It has just come back from Perth where it flew for the 25th Anniversary.

‘It has been to England for the 150th anniversary of the America’s Cup, flying again on Australia II.

‘Now days we fly it at all these regattas; we have been to 12 or so Victoria Weeks – it’s wonderful to be able to fly our big flag on Australia Day.'

‘It’s a piece of Australian sailing history...' concluded O'Hare.

And so say all of us.



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