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Alan Bond - America's Cup Hero remembered by Longley and Simmer

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com on 6 Jun 2015
Australia II crew celebrate victory in 1983 - America’s Cup Paul Darling Photography Maritime Productions www.sail-world.com/nz
Alan Bond, who won the America’s Cup on his fourth attempt, in 1983, died on Thursday in West Australia at the age of 77, after complications from heart surgery.

Although he had a colorful financial background, Bond is best remembered for his four Challenges for the America's Cup and subsequent exploits surrounding the winning and attempted Defence of the oldest Trophy in international sport.

He led Challenges for the America’s Cup in 1974, 1977 and 1980 but could not win against the New York Yacht Club until the advent of the wing keeled Australia II and the opportunity for a psychological campaign orchestrated by Bond and his wily lieutenant Warren Jones.

Despite having only one race of the 13 sailed in three matches, Bond persisted with a fourth Challenge in 1983 continuing with the disparate group - a mix of veterans from previous campaigns and those now given their first chance at winning the most prestigious trophy on sailing. Alan Bond played on the individual strengths of this group creating the synergy for his team win the most historic achievement in yachting history and create an iconic moment in world sport.

A noted offshore yachtsman, Bond's had a succession of boats named Apollo, twice taking line honours in the Sydney Hobart Race in 1978 and 1985. He represented Australia in the 1981 Admirals Cup in Apollo 5.


Oracle Team USA General Manager Grant 'Mad Dog' Simmer was the 26yr old navigator on that crew, and writes on Americas Cup.com.

“I met Alan through (skipper) John Bertrand. We had been sailing on one of Alan’s boat called Apollo 5 which we took to the Admirals Cup,” Simmer recalls. “Alan sailed on the boat with us. We did the Hobart race with him on that boat. And then it was Alan who pushed to have me as navigator for Australia II. I hadn’t been a navigator before that.”

Why take a chance on a young unknown for such an important role?

“Alan was a risk-taker. He liked pushing limits. He was the one who took the risks with that boat - with that whole campaign. We really pushed the edges and that was Alan’s form.


“I think he had a vision that he wanted to have a younger team and bring in some fresh ideas. You can get stale in these campaigns if you stay with the same group. And this was the early days of having computers on board to do basic analysis. By today’s standards they were very clunky of course. Primitive even. But back then, I was on top of it.

“So in giving me that opportunity, he really created my 30-year career in the America’s Cup.”

“The last time I saw him was at the last America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013 when the Australia II crew had a 30-year reunion. We all gave a little speech about a memory from that time. At least half the speeches were about Alan, about something crazy he’d done to upset the Americans!

'Then he got up and gave a speech that had us all in stitches. He was a good guy - he could laugh at himself and let us laugh at him.

“And he was also a great family man. I know how proud he was of all of his children. I’m really thinking about his family today and send my condolences to them. Alan was certainly one of a kind.'

John 'Chink' Longley

I was teaching in London when. I got a letter from Alan Bond. Did I want to sail on Apollo in Cowes Week, the Fastnet etc. Did I what?

Later on during Cowes week where we had been having fantastic racing against Ted Turner's converted 12 metre, American Eagle, Alan suddenly leapt on a table at the Gloucester Hotel (since burnt down) and announced that he was going to challenge for the America's Cup and that I was going to be a part of the crew.

It was like a second grade cricketer being told he was going to wear the 'baggy green' but sure enough three years later and after lots of sailing including the Bermuda, Transatlantic and Admirals Cup I was on Southern Cross for Alan's first go at the Cup.

We got smashed. Alan was very disappointed, but he regrouped, gave Benny Lexcen another chance and asked a 25 year old boat builder, Steve Ward, to build a new boat he named Australia. That led to the 1977 Cup. I was back on board for the Match against Ted Turner in Courageous, the last friendly Cup I often think as Alan and Ted organized a huge bash up lunch with both crews BEFORE we went out and raced. We still lost 4-0 but the margin had significantly narrowed.

Alan was on one of his financial lows when 1980 came around. He decided to go again but with the same boat, slightly modified 'Just to keep our hand in', as he put it.

Later that summer we came up against The British 12 Metre Lionheart. It was a typical foggy Newport day. Lionheart put up her mainsail and then amazingly wound the back stay on and exposed a huge mainsail. The bendy mast had been revealed.

Alan was on the radio to Benny straight away. Benny actually apologized to Alan that he had not thought of it. He explained there was no girth measurement for 12 Metre mainsails and they were going to just sail away from us, which they subsequently did. Alan immediately instructed Benny to build one, here, now, in Newport.

So we did and if we had been better would have won the Cup that year.

As we were towed in on a grey cold Newport day having lost 4 - 1, Alan came charging over in our rubber duck and leapt on board. 'Well done guys, that was great. Hey we won a race. So next time we build two boats. John Bertrand will steer one of them and next time we will win'.....and we did.

I like to think these stories sum up the Alan Bond I knew. Irrepressible, hugely optimistic, the provider of opportunity for people to do things they never had done, or even thought of, before. He was huge fun to be around and boy did he give me a fantastic life in the sailing world.


If I can finish up with one final story. We were in Sardinia for the 1987 12 Metre World's. The regatta had just finished and Alan asked me to come and see him on his big power yacht.

'What you doing now Chink'
'Don't really know Alan'
'Do you want to build the Endeavour?'
'What?'
'Endeavour - it's Cook's ship,'
' I know Alan but....'
'Warren Jones reckons we should do it as the Bond Corp Bicentennial project. Do you want to do it?'
' Gee Alan that sounds really interesting. When can we talk about it in detail?'
'Forget that. I'm busy. Do you want to build the ship'
'Yes Alan'....and that was the next 12 years of my life sorted.

Farewell Alan and thank you for all the fun we had together, Chink


Alan Bond was admitted to the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 2003, and its website records his achievements:

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.



Daily Telegraph (UK):
At his peak he was a national hero, applauded by the Australian Prime Minister, and fawned upon by the government of Western Australia

When his yacht, Australia II, brought home the America’s Cup in 1983, 200,000 people lined the streets of Perth. Overcome, Bob Hawke, the Prime Minister, declared on television: “Any employer who sacks a worker for not coming in today is a bum!”

To read Alan Bond's obituary in the Daily Telegraph (UK) click here









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