Alan Bond: The man behind Australia’s greatest victory

Published on June 7th, 2015

Alan Bond, one of Australia’s most colourful businessmen and yachtsman, is dead at 77. Bond died June 5, 2015 following complications after open-heart surgery. Bond bankrolled four challenges to the America’s Cup, with his 1983 winning skipper John Bertrand sharing these comments for The Daily Telegraph

People have polarised views on Alan Bond. No doubt plenty will be said in the media about his business dealings and the subsequent collapse of his business empire. For me, I knew Alan through the lens of the world of the America’s Cup.

I’m not sure many people realise Alan first challenged for the America’s Cup in 1974 at the tender age of 34. But he knew the enormity of the challenge ahead. Over the next 10 years he had three more tries — in 1977, 1980 and 1983, when he finally tasted success at the fourth attempt.

That 10 years of campaigning was an integral part of our ability to generate the technology, knowledge, and people to take on the United States at their own game. I remember Alan’s resilience and never-give-up attitude during that time but most of all his positive attitude, which was such an important part of the team.

Alan was the mainstay of an event which has become part of Australian sporting folklore. I’m told the Australia II victory was one of the most remembered in Australian history – some people even suggest it was Australia’s greatest sporting achievement.

To defeat the United States after 132 years of domination was no mean feat, believe me. The United States are not in the business of losing.

I’m told our country stopped when we crossed the finish line and I’m still amazed at some of the stories I hear of how people celebrated.

Why was our victory so important? You have to remember that Australia was in a tough economic recession at the time, there had been devastating bushfires and drought, and the country was in many ways on its knees.

To come back from three-one down in the America’s Cup to three-two and then three-all before winning that final race exemplified what this nation is proud of. We pride ourselves in our ability to fight back when our backs are against the wall.

I’m told more people became citizens as a result of that day than ever before or since. They wanted to be a part of this country for the first time. Economic activity also increased, with people perhaps thinking “If they can do it, so can I”. How can you put a value on that?

People can make up their own minds about Alan. For me, he was the person who would never give up. He gave us the resources and continuity of which we as the Australia II team and as a nation are now rightly so proud.

Editor’s note: While Alan Bond’s impact on Australian yachting is well-stated by John Bertrand, those in the business sector offer a much less flattering assessment. The Eight Bells report shares the details, while this report called Bond “one of the biggest crooks and thieves Australia has ever produced.” Ouch!

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