1987 America's Cup

The 1987 America's Cup was the twenty-sixth challenge for the America's Cup.

26th America's Cup
Defender  Australia
Defender club:Royal Perth Yacht Club
Yacht:Kookaburra III
Challenger  United States
Challenger club:San Diego Yacht Club
Yacht:Stars & Stripes 87
31°57′9.0″S 115°38′48.12″E / 31.952500°S 115.6467000°E / -31.952500; 115.6467000Coordinates: 31°57′9.0″S 115°38′48.12″E / 31.952500°S 115.6467000°E / -31.952500; 115.6467000
Dates:31 January – 4 February 1987
Winner:San Diego Yacht Club
← 1983
1988 →
Harbour city of Fremantle, showing the purpose-built Challenger Harbour in the extreme foreground with Fishing Boat Harbour behind it. Fremantle Sailing Club is further to the right and just out of view. The competing syndicates were based in these harbours.

The American challenger Stars & Stripes 87, sailed by Dennis Conner, beat the Australian defender Kookaburra III, sailed by Iain Murray, in a four-race sweep in the best of seven series.[1] Conner thus became the first person both to lose the America's Cup and then to win it back.

The series was held in Gage Roads off Fremantle, Western Australia during the Australian summer months between October 1986 and February 1987. The Royal Perth Yacht Club was the defending club and the organiser of the defence series.[2] Yacht Club Costa Smeralda of Porto Cervo, Sardinia was appointed the challenger of record and hence the organiser of the challenger series.[3][4]

This was the last time that 12-metre class yachts were used in the America's Cup and the first time for 132 years that it had not been defended by the New York Yacht Club.


The 1983 America's Cup off Newport, Rhode Island was the most significant America's Cup regatta since the first event off the Isle of Wight. Alan Bond's Australia II pulled off a major upset by winning the series from Conner's Liberty to become the first success in twenty-five challenges for the Cup. The New York Yacht Club had previously built the longest winning streak in international sporting history, having successfully defended the trophy over 132 years.

Most previous challenges had been from the United Kingdom – notably by Scotsman Sir Thomas Lipton who had challenged five times between 1899 and 1930 in his 37 metres (121 ft) Shamrock sloops. Australia mounted its first challenge in 1962 with 12-metre class yachts when Sir Frank Packer and his Gretel were beaten 4–1. Packer made more challenges, with Dame Pattie and Gretel II.[5] Alan Bond mounted his first challenge in 1974 with Southern Cross, followed by Australia in 1977 and 1980 and ultimately had success with Australia II in 1983.[6]

It was in this context that the 1987 America's Cup was seen as the best opportunity yet for a successful challenge, as the event was now outside the control of the NYYC and held in a location with strong but variable breezes, unlike the predictable and placid winds off Rhode Island. The regatta therefore attracted enormous additional interest over previous series.

The venueEdit


Following the 1983 win, there was speculation over the likely location of the defence, with three main candidates potentially under consideration.[5] In the late 1970s, Alan Bond had developed a marina and a large associated housing development north of Yanchep called "Yanchep Sun City" (now known as Two Rocks), about one hour's drive north of Perth. The marina was built with an expectation of success from earlier America's Cup challenges. The second candidate was the town of Mandurah, a coastal township a similar distance south of Perth. The last, and ultimately successful location considered was Fremantle as the required infrastructure at the other two locations were considered inadequate by the Royal Perth Yacht Club as defender. Also, the proximity to the major population centre of Perth and its international airport were seen as an important factor.


For most of its life until 1985, Fremantle had been a port city with a population of less than 24,000.[7] Private investment and public infrastructure redevelopment commenced on a massive scale in anticipation of a large influx of visitors arriving to watch the event. This expectation proved over-ambitious, but 13 challenging syndicates from six countries and four defence syndicates arrived with a fleet of 29 12-metre yachts.

"Home of the America's Cup" vehicle registration plate

In 1985, an "Office of America's Cup Defence" was set up to coordinate the state government's involvement in the staging of the event.[8] The government embarked on a number of projects such as Hillarys Boat Harbour and extensions to the Perth to Fremantle railway line.[8] A new marina, Challenger Harbour[9][10] was built alongside the existing Fishing Boat Harbour, and the state government received funding from each defence syndicate, a total of $2.3 million, to offset costs associated with the harbour works of $8 million.,[11]: p176 [12] Vehicle registration plate slogans in Western Australia changed from The Wildflower State and the State of Excitement to W.A. Home of the America's Cup[11]: p171  In 1985 and 1986 changes in liquor laws and trading hours regulations were made to expand services for visitors.[citation needed]The Executive Director of the Royal Perth Yacht Club's America's Cup Defence Committee was Noel Robins, a skipper and crew member in previous America's Cups, and later a Paralympic gold medallist.[13]

A Festival of Sport was conducted in late 1986 and early 1987 which included a cricket Test[14] and One Day International tournament, athletics, hockey, basketball, squash, golf, racing, trotting, cycling, football, baseball, lawn bowls, karate and kick-boxing competitions.[8] A heavy-weight boxing title fight[citation needed] and a World Sprint Car Championship were held in early January.[15]

The cruise ship Achille Lauro was chartered by a private group for the duration of the series, to act as a viewing platform and accommodation for 1,400 visitors. It also housed the international jury which oversaw the races.[8] Other cruise ships which visited the port for the races included Island Princess and several Royal Viking vessels.[16]

12-metre 'world championship' racesEdit

In January and February 1986, a series styled as the '12-metre world championship' was staged off Fremantle as a precursor to the America's Cup event scheduled for January 1987.[17] A dozen syndicates competed, mainly as a shakedown series to determine their relative competitiveness and to train crews for the anticipated heavy conditions. Strong winds throughout most of the regatta resulted in four 90 ft (27 m) masts, a dozen booms and numerous sails being destroyed. Five crewmen were washed overboard during the races. Gary Jobson, of the 'Heart of America' syndicate declared that the Fremantle waters were "unsuitable for racing."[17]

Australia III, the heavy-weather Ben Lexcen designed successor to Australia II won the series comfortably. The New Zealand challenge boat KZ 5, a fibreglass-hull Bruce Farr design, came in second, with the New York Yacht Club entrant America II third.


The America's Cup course

The Fremantle Fairway Buoy 31°57′9.0″S 115°38′48.12″E / 31.952500°S 115.6467000°E / -31.952500; 115.6467000[18] was renamed the "America's Cup Buoy" for the duration of the event and marked one end of the start and finish lines for each America's Cup race.[8] The buoy is a permanent navigation marker used for shipping in and out of Fremantle harbour and is located 8 nautical miles (15 km) west-north-west of the harbour, in Gage Roads[19] or 5.5 nautical miles (10.2 km) due west of City Beach. Races in the challenge and defence elimination trials used other markers in the general vicinity.

The orientation of the course was set such that the starting line was square to the prevailing wind 20 minutes before each race start. Races were 24.3 nautical miles (45.0 km) long, consisting of beats into the wind in legs 1, 3, 6 and 8; downwind runs on legs 2 and 7; and reaches on legs 4 and 5.[20]



Thirteen syndicates from six countries (Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) competed, bringing 25 boats for the right to challenge. Stars & Stripes 87 was the winner of the 1987 Louis Vuitton Cup and earned the right to sail for the America's Cup.


Four syndicates competed for the right to represent the Royal Perth Yacht Club as the defender of the America's Cup. After a series of round robin races, a Defender Finals contest was sailed between Alan Bond's Australia IV and Kookaburra III of Kevin Parry's Taskforce 87 syndicate, with Kookaburra III sweeping the finals five races to nil to win the Defender selection process. In doing so she placed Alan Bond's syndicate on the outside of an America's Cup regatta for the first time in thirteen years.[21]

Races for the CupEdit

The best-of-seven final series were scheduled to be held between 31 January and 15 February 1987.[1] There being a four-race sweep result, the final race was held on 4 February.

Race 1 31 January: Course direction: 225° on leg one. Wind speed: 8 to 18 knots (33 km/h). Stars & Stripes beat Kookaburra III by one minute and 41 seconds.
Race 2 1 February: Course direction: 195° on leg one. Stars & Stripes beat Kookaburra III by one minute and 10 seconds.
Race 3 2 February: Course direction: 210° on leg one. Stars & Stripes beat Kookaburra III by one minute and 46 seconds.
Race 4 4 February: Course direction: 220° on leg one. Changed to 210° on leg three. Stars & Stripes beat Kookaburra III by one minute and 59 seconds.


(Held in Battye Library)

  • Defence Downunder : official newsletter of the America's Cup Defence 1987 Ltd. Perth, W.A. : America's Cup Defence 1987 Ltd., 1984–1986.
    • Issues: Vol. 1, no. 1 ([June 1984])-v. 3, no. 3 (Dec. 1986)
  • Kookaburra : Taskforce 1987 America's Cup Defence. North Fremantle, W.A : Taskforce 1987, 1985–1987.
    • Issues: Vol. 1, no. 1 (June 1985)-v. 1, no. 6 (Jan. 1987)


  • Roberts, N and D. (1986) America's Cup course, Fremantle W.A. [cartographic material] Fremantle, W.A. : Postcard Factory at Down Under Press, Reduced facsimile of "Approaches to Fremantle", Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Service (Chart No. AUS 112m), America's Cup Race Edition.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Kookaburra III – KA 15". 32nd America's Cup. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  2. ^ "History". Royal Perth Yacht Club. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Costa Smeralda Yacht Club of Sardinia appointed challenger of record". The West Australian. 18 September 1984.
  4. ^ "Yacht Club Costa Smeralda". Archived from the original on 3 November 2007. Retrieved 23 February 2008.
  5. ^ a b Eileen Westley (1983). America's Cup '83. John Fairfax Marketing. ISBN 978-0-909558-36-9.
  6. ^ "Fremantle 1987, Western Australia: a lightning passage!". Valencia 32nd America's Cup. 14 February 2007. Archived from the original on 27 December 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
  7. ^ "Community Profile, Fremantle". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e Keith Taylor, ed. (1986). The America's Cup defence. Wilke and Company, Victoria. ISBN 978-0-86411-054-1.
  9. ^ "Fremantle Challenger Harbour". Department of Planning and Infrastructure. Archived from the original on 29 February 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  10. ^ "Challenger Harbour aerial view" (PDF). Department of Planning and Infrastructure. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 May 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  11. ^ a b Dale, Anthony In Quest of the Holy Grail: W.A. and the America's Cup pp. 171–185 in O'Brien, Patrick (editor) The Burke Ambush Nedlands, W.A. Apollo Press ISBN 978-0-949901-04-0
  12. ^ Dale citing The West Australian 25 January 1985
  13. ^ "Noël ROBINS, "Stumbles"". AC-cyclopedia. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  14. ^ "The Ashes, 1986/87, 2nd Test". Cricinfo. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  15. ^ Dennis Nelwyn. "The Sprintcar Revolution in Australia". Speedway Racing News. Archived from the original on 2 March 2004. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  16. ^ John Brannon Albright (12 October 1986). "Getting Close to the Action in Perth; Finding a Berth for the Races". Time.
  17. ^ a b Philip Elmer-Dewitt. (3 March 1986). ""Dirty and Short" Down Under". Time. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  18. ^ "Australian Notices to Mariners" (PDF). Australian Hydrographic Office. 23 October 1998. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  19. ^ "Port Information". Fremantle Ports. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
  20. ^ Keith Taylor, ed. (1986). The Complete Book of the America's Cup Defence History and 1987 Contenders (course map insert). North Sydney: Advertiser Magazines Pty Limited. ISBN 978-0-86411-054-1.
  21. ^ Barbara Lloyd (21 January 1987). "Kookaburra III Will Defend Cup". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2011.

Further readingEdit

  • Campbell, Peter.(1986) The contenders : the America's Cup challenge 1987 (with Phil Smidmore and Nigel Lovell). Sydney: Golden Press. ISBN 978-0-7302-0325-4
  • Conner, Dennis. (1987) Comeback : my race for the America's Cup with Bruce Stannard; foreword by Walter Cronkite; Paul C. Larson consulting editor. South Melbourne: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-45056-7
  • Conner, Dennis. (1988) No excuse to lose with John Rousmaniere. London: Adlard Coles. ISBN 978-0-229-11821-2
  • Dovey, Rik (editor) (1986) America's Cup defence, Perth 1987 (assistant editors: Vanessa Dudley, Gail Liston; contributing writers: Angela Ang . [et al.]; contributing photographers: Carlo Borlegni ... [et al.]. Carlton, Vic : Winseray Pty. Ltd.(Melbourne: Owen King Australia) "The publication of the America's Cup Defence 1987 Ltd." – Cover.
  • Fisher, Bob, (1987) The America's Cup 1987 : the official record with Bob Ross; introduction by John Bertrand. Sydney: Pierson. ISBN 978-0-947068-05-9 "Published with the cooperation of the Royal Perth Yacht Club'.
  • Rayner, Ranulf (2007) The story of the America's Cup 1851–2007 Sydney. University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-86840-990-0
  • Stars & Stripes. The Official Record. Bruce Stannard, 1987
  • Taylor, Keith (editor)(1986) The Complete book of the America's Cup defence: history and 1987 contenders North Sydney : Advertiser Magazines. ISBN 978-0-86411-054-1
  • Wheatley, Keith (1986) America's Cup '87: the inside story. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-010031-0