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Gentleman Jim - A sailing career in video and images

by Richard Gladwell 15 Jun 2023 22:57 PDT 16 June 2023
Sir James Hardy was a mentor to many Australian sailors - here with Jimmy Spithill at theRPAYC after Spithill had won the 2010 America's Cup © Damian Devine

One of Australia's most accomplished sailors Sir James Hardy has passed away in Adelaide, South Australia, aged 90 years.

A great-grandson of the South Australian winemaker Thomas Hardy, his father was chairman and managing director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, but was killed in 1938 in a plane crash, when Jim Hardy was six years old. After leaving school Jim worked as a share farmer for a couple of years before joining the family company as a shipping clerk, becoming chairman in 1981.

His sailing career began 10 or 11 years old when he started sailing a "clapped-out" Int Cadet dinghy named 'Mermaid'.

That was the beginning of a sailing career which covered two Olympics in two classes, four Admirals Cups, a world championship win in the Int 505 class and four America's Cup campaigns - beginning as skipper in 1970 and ending as reserve helmsman on Australia II in 1983.

His edited entry in the America's Cup Hall of Fame reads in part:

“Gentleman Jim”, they call him that is, until they race against him. A fierce competitor, mild mannered Jim Hardy is a life long sailor and one of Australia’s favorite America’s Cup heroes. Hardy was raised on the water by a family of sailors. His father died when Jim was six, leaving him a leaky old 12 foot sailboat named Mermaid. He won his first national championship on Flying Dutchmen at age 16, then represented Australia at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 as crew in the 5.5 Metre class. [He was a reserve in the Flying Dutchman class at the 1964 Olympic regatta in Tokyo.]

Returning home to Australia after taking third at the World Championships “Gentleman Jim” stopped in Newport to watch the America’s Cup races. The whole scene consumed Hardy, driving him to become absorbed in every major Australian America’s Cup effort since. In 1970 Hardy took command of Gretel II in the challenge against Bill Ficker and the Cup Defender of 1967, Intrepid. Despite losing the match after a controversial collision and protest, Hardy’s spirit was hardly broken. In 1974, Hardy skippered Southern Cross against Ted Hood’s Courageous and skippered Australia in 1980.

He was reserve skipper and mentor aboard Australia II in the 1983 America's Cup, helming the 12 Metre to eight wins from nine races in the Challenger Final when the designated helmsman John Bertrand had a pinched nerve in his neck.

He remained a key figure in Australian sailing right to his death.

The Hardy Cup contested between international youth match racing teams, has spawned many a top international sailing career, and remains as a living memorial.

America's Cup from 1970 to 1982

DownUnder Sail caught up with Sir James Hardy at the 505 Nationals at the Brighton & Seacliff Yacht Club. Sir James spoke about the 1966 World Championships that he won - as well as what was so great about the 505 class.

Sir James Hardy is interviewed for the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia series by Peter Shipway

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