Burkie to relive Cup memories 30 years ago

VISITING the Australia II display at the WA Maritime Museum inevitably stirs yachting legend John Longley’s memories of its famous 1983 America’s Cup win off Rhode Island.

But as Longley prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Cup defence that helped define modern Fremantle, something’s still grinding away at the former grinder—he reckons the display’s wrong.

It’s meant to capture the moment Australia II rounded the ‘America’s Cup buoy’, ahead of Dennis Connor’s Liberty for the first time in the race, before tacking up the last leg to take the cup off the New York Yacht Club for the first time since 1851.

• America’s cup veterans John Longley and Peter Gilmour with event organiser Karl Bullers. Photo by Steve Grant

Rope missing

But Longley says there’s a rope missing that should be connected to the top of the spinnaker, which is shown disappearing under the main sail as if by magic.

“I’ve told the museum, but they won’t fix it,” Longley says with some frustration.

“It’s probably correct and just means some sewer rat forgot to connect it,” joshes Peter Gilmour about one of Longley’s jobs aboard the 12-metre yacht (organising sails in the cramped sewer below deck as they were pulled down).

Gilmour sailed against Longley and Australia II in trials to determine the defender of the cup, eventually winning the series.

• Photos by Roger Garwood

But the starting helmsman of Kookaburra III took on Connor, who was out for revenge in his Stars and Stripes 87, and was soundly beaten.

The playful banter shows the camaraderie between Cup veterans hasn’t diminished despite the years, and soon the pair are lost in sea tales.

“It’s a bit woofy,” Longley tells Gilmour about Australia II’s rudder, which on (very) close inspection proves not to be perfectly symmetrical.

The pair will join former premier Brian Burke as the National Hotel and WA Museum put on a special commemoration of the event as part of this year’s Fremantle Heritage Festival.

Cup commemoration organiser and Nash owner Karl Bullers was a “spotty teenager” in the north of England when millionaire Alan Bond’s brash Aussie team pulled off the big race.

But he says the defence became such a defining moment for Fremantle and Perth that when a couple of people suggested he hold an event, it took on a life of its own.

The event will be held on May 27 from 6pm. Dress code is, naturally, formal with a nautical flair.

Tix available from reception@museum.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 134 081.

by STEVE GRANT

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