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27th America's Cup
Fremantle, Western Australia
Defender Kookaburra III
Number of Yachts 2
Winner Stars & Stripes
The 1987 America's Cup was the twenty-seventh running of the America's Cup regatta and the first time for 132 years that it had not been hosted by the New York Yacht Clubmarker.

American syndicate Stars & Stripes, sailed by Dennis Conner, beat Kookaburra III, sailed by Iain Murray, by four wins to nil in the best of seven final series. Conner, the winning skipper had thus become the first person to lose the America's Cup, and the first to win it back.

The series was held in Gage Roads off Fremantle, Western Australiamarker between December 1986 and February 1987. The Royal Perth Yacht Club was the defending club and the organiser of the defence series. Yacht Club Costa Smeraldamarker of Porto Cervomarker, Sardinia was appointed the challenger of record and hence the organiser the challenger series.

The 1987 Series was the last time that 12-metre class yachts were used in the America's Cup.


The 1983 America's Cup off Newport, Rhode Islandmarker was arguably one of the most significant in the history of the Cup. Alan Bond's Australia II pulled off a major upset by winning the series from Conner's Liberty to become the first successful challenger in 132 years. The New York Yacht Clubmarker had previously enjoyed the longest winning streak in international sporting history, having successfully defended the trophy over twenty challenges.

Most previous challengers had been from the United Kingdom - notably by Scotsman Sir Thomas Lipton who had challenged five times between 1899 and 1930 in his 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. 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.

It was in this context that the 1987 series was seen as the best chance yet for challengers, being finally outside the control of the NYCC and held in a location with strong but variable breezes, unlike the predictable and placid winds off Rhode Islandmarker. The regatta therefore attracted enormous additional interest over previous series.

Staging issues

Following the 1983 win, there was initially speculation over the likely location of the defence, with three main candidates considered. Alan Bond had in the late 1970s, developed a marina and a large associated housing development north of Yanchepmarker called "Yanchep Sun City" (now known as Two Rocksmarker), 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 Mandurahmarker, a coastal township a similar distance south of Perth. The last, and ultimately successful location considered was Fremantlemarker as the required infrastructure at the other two locations were considered inadequate. Also, the proximity to the major population centre of Perth and its international airport were seen as an important factor.

Fremantle had been, for most of its life a sleepy working-class port city with a population of less than 40,000 . Private investment and public infrastructure redevelopment commenced on massive scale soon after the realisation of the scale of expected influx of visitors. In the end, 14 challenging syndicates from six countries and four defence syndicates arrived with a fleet of 29 12-Metre boats.

"Home of the America's Cup" vehicle registration plate
In 1985, an "Office of America's Cup Defence" was setup to coordinate the State Government involvement in the staging of the event. Des Dans was appointed as Minister for the America's Cup. The government embarked on a number of projects such as Hillarys Boat Harbourmarker and extensions to the Perth to Fremantle railway line. A new marina, Challenger Harbour was built alongside the existing Fishing Boat Harbourmarker, and the state government received funding from each defence syndicate, a total of $2.3M, to offset costs associated with the harbour works of $8M. 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 In 1985 and 1986 changes in liquor laws and trading hours regulations were made to expand services for visitors.

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

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. Other cruise ships which visited the port for the races included Island Princess and several Royal Viking vessels.

1986 12-Metre World Championships

In January and February 1986, the 12-Metre World Championships were staged off Fremantle as a precursor to the America's Cup event commencing the following January. 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 of the 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."

Australia III, a heavy-weather Ben Lexcen designed successor to Australia II won the series comfortably. New Zealand II, one of the so-called "plastic-fantastic" fibreglass 12-metres came second, and the New York Yacht Club entrant America II came in third.


The America's Cup course

The Fremantle Fairway Buoy 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. The buoy is a permanent navigation marker used for shipping in and out of Fremantle harbour and is located west-north-west of the harbour in Gage Roads or due west of City Beachmarker. 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 long, consisting of beat into the wind in legs 1, 3, 6 and 8; downwind runs on legs 2 and 7; and reaches on legs 4 and 5.


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 races, Kookaburra III was selected as the official defender.


Fourteen syndicates from six countries (Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) competed in 25 boats for the right to challenge. In the end Stars & Stripes won the 1987 Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to sail for the America's Cup.

The America's Cup

The best-of-seven final series were scheduled to be held between 31 January and 15 February 1987. With a four-nil result however, the final race was staged on 4 February.

Race 1 31 January: Course direction: 225° on leg one. Wind speed: 8 to . 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.

See also


  1. Dale p.176 The West 25/1/85
  2. Dale p.171 The West 25/1/85

Further reading

  • Campbell, Peter.(1986) The contenders : the America's Cup challenge 1987 (with Phil Smidmore and Nigel Lovell). Sydney: Golden Press. ISBN 0730203255
  • 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 0333450566
  • Conner, Dennis. (1988) No excuse to lose with John Rousmaniere. London: Adlard Coles. ISBN 0229118216
  • Dale, Anthony (1986) 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 0949901040
  • 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 0947068058 "Published with the cooperation of the Perth Royal Yacht Club'.
  • Rayner, Ranulf (2007) The story of the America's Cup 1851-2007 Sydney. University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 9780868409900
  • 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 0864110545
  • Wheatley, Keith (1986) America's Cup '87: the inside story. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-010031-0


(Held in Battye Librarymarker)
  • 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.

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