Greatest underdog story in sports

Published on July 20th, 2022

Launched in 2021, Netflix brings back the Untold series of sports documentaries in 2022 with four new stories to air:

August 16: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist
August 23: The Rise and Fall of And1
August 30: Operation Flagrant Foul
September 6: Race of the Century

The final show details the 1983 America’s Cup in which New York Yacht Club would finally lose its hold on a trophy which it had successfully defended over a period of 132 years.

Chapman Way, the 35-year-old who co-created the series with his 31-year-old brother Maclain, insists the victory by the Alan Bond-financed Australia II in the best-of-seven yacht race after being 3-1 down “truly is the greatest underdog story in the history of sports”.

It’s a big call, but Maclain backs it up. “It’s almost astounding how much of an advantage the New York Yacht Club had in this race,” he says. “Technologically, the winning streak, the funding, the money is mind-boggling, which is why they won for 132 years.”

John Bertrand, who skippered the Australian boat, was the main conduit through which they chose to tell the story of how “the longest winning streak in the history of sport” was brought to an end.

But as they sifted through reams of archival footage, the brothers knew they needed to speak with the Prime Minister who declared on the morning of victory that “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”. If they could get him.

“And Bertrand was like, ‘I’ll call him right now. Let’s make it happen’,” Chapman recalls. “And we’re like, ‘Wait, what?’ ‘Yeah, I’ll get him on the phone right now. Let’s do it’.”

Bob Hawke picked up, Bertrand put the brothers on speaker, and the former PM said he wasn’t really doing interviews anymore. But, he added, “to speak one more time about this event that brings me and the country a lot of pride, let’s do it’.”

The brothers and their crew went to Hawke’s house where they spent 45 minutes or so recalling with great detail the events of those days.

“He jokingly introduced himself, which made me laugh. ‘Of course I know who you are’,” says Maclain. “He was engaged. He said, ‘everyone likes to beat the Americans at something’, which we felt too; yeah, it’s nice to see the Americans lose every now and then.

“It was a moment of pride and joy [for us], no doubt, and it was just a real honorable experience.”

In the Untold series, the Way brothers have a way not just with interviews but also with bringing archival footage to life.

“We talk a lot about these things being time travel,” says Maclain. “It’s a lofty goal of ours, but that’s really how we edit them, how we make them. We don’t like them being these past-tense stories. We really push our interview subjects to bring the audience on the journey that they were on, and then we use all the tools we have – archive footage being number one – to bring audiences on that journey.”

And how would they describe the journey Australia went on back in 1983?

“I’m not exaggerating, it looks like World War II just came to an end,” Maclain says. “One of the first things that drew us to the project was the scenes of people stumbling out of bars and having the time of their lives.

“I would give anything to go back to 1983 and be in Australia on that day,” he adds. “It just seems like the most fun day ever.”

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