On a recent trip to Australia we took a flight to the country’s west coast in search of the coveted America’s Cup. Of course, we know the Cup itself no longer resides Down Under. We did, however, imagine the town of Fremantle, the base for the 26th challenge in 1987, would be in itself a shrine to that memorable day four years prior, when the crew of Australia II wrested the Cup from the Americans. One would think that with such a history, the city would have named everything after the great event, and that finding signs and idols would have been easy. But alas, it was not so.
The day began with a drive from Perth to Fremantle, hoping along the way that we would find a marker on the map — something like “Home of the America’s Cup Winners,” or “America’s Cup Here,” with a big, bold arrow. We found neither. So instead we looked for the Royal Perth Yacht Club, thinking there we would find the memorabilia we sought. We were met by a locked gate and no idea if there was any point in trying to talk our way into the club. So we opted to ask at a nearby hotel reception desk if there were any local nods to that famous moment when Australia II, built and owned by a syndicate of Western Australians (or Sandgropers as they’re lovingly known by the rest of the country), sailed to victory in Newport, Rhode Island.
“If you walk down the road you’ll find a historic trail with information plaques,” the nice lady told us. Off we went.
There were indeed plaques, mounted on not-quite-waist-height bollards, each featuring one of the boats that raced in the 1987 America’s Cup.
By the time we’d completed the entire length of the trail, we were better educated, but somewhat disheartened, and a little thirsty. A little lunchtime beverage might help us reassess our mission. It was then that we were surprised by a statue of a man who looked more than a little familiar. The original front man for the iconic ’70s rock band AC/DC stood before us — the legendary Bon Scott. This was the kind of thing we were looking for: a permanent reminder of a significant point in time — but with sailboats.
Fortunately, as we made our way to the nearest tavern for a refresher, our local companion said, “What about the maritime museum?” There is one? Perfect. Surely there we would succeed. And we did.
The Western Australia Maritime Museum proudly displays its colorful boating history, including the America’s Cup win in 1983, and even the boat itself.
On our way to the museum we were reminded about the Australian prime minister, Bob Hawke, who uttered those infamous words at the successful conclusion of Australia II‘s challenge: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” What we didn’t remember is that at the time, Mr Hawke sported a very patriotic-looking jacket.
It took us most of the day, but we were happy that we had succeeded in our mission to find the America’s Cup in Fremantle, Western Australia. And while Australia has so far only won the challenge once, we still felt a certain degree of pride and nostalgia as we gazed up at the famous winged-keel boat that almost 40 years ago beat the centuries-long Cup holders.