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America’s Cup 40th anniversary: Celebrating Australia II’s win almost as legendary as the race itself

September 23, 2023

The vision is unforgettable, even today.

As Australia II stormed past the New York Yacht Club race committee boat Black Night with Liberty in its wake, a cannon shot rang out and a puff of white smoke drifted skywards.

It signalled not just the end of the America’s Cup in which Australia II had done the seemingly impossible in the race of the century — it fired the starter’s gun on the party of the century.

“Will you stand up, Australia,” shouted the excited Australian television commentator. “Will you stand up and cheer because this is the finest day in the history of Australian sport!”

Out on the water where thousands were watching on, little boats raced to get close to the little yacht from Down Under and those members of the elated syndicate who could, climbed aboard.

Then it was back to the dock where utter mayhem had broken out.

It seemed any Aussie who could get there had descended on the celebrations and before long a chant went up: “We want the keel. Let’s see the keel.”

The yacht was finally lifted from the water without its keel’s covering — and the secret weapon was finally revealed.

One of the “wings” even turned into a beer table in a sort of only-by-an-Aussie way when a carton was plonked on it.

Back in Australia, TV coverage hosts broke out the champagne on air and champagne-soaked prime minister Bob Hawke — in Perth for a Federal cabinet meeting — joined in the festivities at the Royal Perth Yacht Club, donning a famously loud jacket to declare: “I tell you what, any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”

Perth’s afternoon paper, the Daily News, celebrated with a headline that said it all: ”It’s Ours”.

Festivities broke out across the nation as the euphoria that gripped the country started early and then went on for days.

A massive flag was unfurled from the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Revellers at Brisbane’s Riverside Regatta Hotel spilled out onto the roads.

Thousands gathered in Melbourne for a huge street party.

And when the victorious team returned, a homecoming parade in Perth drew an estimated 500,000 out for a motorcade and celebration on Perth Esplanade.

Australia’s Sports Hall of Fame voted the event the greatest team performance in 200 years of Australian sport.

It was by then the race that united the nation.

Malcolm Quekett

The West Australian

Sat, 23 September 2023 6:00AM