America’s Cup Winner Alan Bond Passes Away
Published: Wednesday, 10 June 2015
Following the June 5 passing of legendary Australian sailor Alan Bond, America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA posted this message on the team’s website:
Alan Bond, who won the America’s Cup on his fourth attempt in 1983, has passed away in Australia at the age of 77.
(Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget)
Bond challenged for the America’s Cup in 1974, 1977 and 1980, failing at each attempt to unseat the Americans, who had held the trophy since its inception in 1851.
(Australia II's winged keel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Ken Hodge)
But in 1983, Bond was back. He came armed with a special boat, and a secret winged keel. Just as importantly, he had assembled a crack team.
(Australia II and Liberty racing in the 1983 America’s Cup. Photo: Western Australia Museum)
Oracle Team USA General Manager Grant Simmer was navigator on that crew.
“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."
The Australian businessman was noted for his high-profile business dealings, including his central role in the WA Inc scandals of the 1980s and what was at the time the biggest corporate collapse in Australian history; for his bankrolling the successful bid for the 1983 America's Cup, the first time the New York Yacht Club had ever lost it in its 132-year history; and also for a criminal conviction that saw him serve four years in prison.
Born in London and raised in Australia from the age of 12, Bond began his career as a signwriter and formed what became the Bond Corporation in 1959.
He became a public hero in his adopted country after bankrolling challenges for the America's Cup, which resulted in his selection in 1978 as Australian of the Year (awarded jointly with Galarrwuy Yunupingu).
His Australia II syndicate won the 1983 America's Cup, which had been held by the New York Yacht Club since 1851, thus breaking the longest winning streak in the history of sport.
In 1992, Bond was declared bankrupt with personal debts totalling A$1.8 billion. He was subsequently convicted of fraud and imprisoned after pleading guilty to using his controlling interest in Bell Resources to deceptively siphon off A$1.2 billion into the coffers of Bond Corporation.