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America’s Cup 1995, the All Blacks of the sailing world triumph mightily

Fay's long efforts, which began in 1987, were finally rewarded: he managed to grab the trophy from Dennis Conner's America

Home race America’s Cup 1995, the All Blacks of the sailing world triumph mightily
America’s Cup 1995, the All Blacks of the sailing world triumph mightily

In 1995, it was back to San Diego. The Americans had the feeling that the trophy defence would be tough and they battled it out for over three months to find the most suitable hull. The Citizen Cup, created three years earlier, was attended by magnate Bill Koch’s defending champion America3, the PACT from the New York Yacht Club (whose hull Young America was decorated by Roy Fox Lichtenstein, one of the prophets of pop-art), the Stars & Stripes of the eternal Dennis Conner who, however, left the helm to Paul Cayard and the Mighty Mary, a spin-off of the team who had won the America's Cup in 1992. This was the first all-female crew in the history of the regatta, led by the skilled Dawn Riley.

After joining, Koch left the scene, moving the girls to his boat, as they were waiting for the new one to arrive for the decisive Round Robin. In the end, the experience and determination of Conner’s team managed to get the better of the girls on the Mighty Mary, but ‘Big Bad Dennis’, feeling danger in the air, asked the PACT to have the Young America to defend the trophy, thinking that it was the best hull of the group. His wish was granted.

The Black Magic dominated the LVC

Only seven teams took to the waters for the Louis Vuitton Cup: two Australians (the Sydney Australian Challenge and the One Australia which suffered the sinking of a boat during the regatta), one Japanese (the Nippon Challenge), one Spanish (the Copa America Desafio), one French (Le Défi Français) and two New Zealanders: the new Tutukaka Challenge and the prestigious Team New Zealand, funded by Michael Fay and led by Peter Blake, living legend of ‘kiwi’ sailing, so much so that his habit of wearing red socks whatever the occasion became ‘cool’ across the country. For the Black Magic NZL-32, the Louis Vuitton Cup was almost routine: 4-1 in the final against the One Australia.

America’s Cup 1995, the All Blacks of the sailing world triumph mightily

Team New Zealand syndicate head Peter Blake (L) and helmsman Russell Coutts (R) hold the America's Cup 15 May at the San Diego Yacht Club. The trophy was formally presented to the team, who defeated Team Stars and Stripes in five straight races. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)


The final

The challenge against the American defender was spectacular on paper. Almost all the best of world sailing were aboard the two vessels. On board the Young America, Conner had gathered his faithful followers and some new stars: Cayard, whom we mentioned earlier, Jim Brady, Bill Trenkle, Tom Whidden and Steve Eriksson. They were definitely very talented, but on the other side were a Nation’s very best, who felt tested, Olympic-standard and people who had taken part in the Vendée Globe to say the least: Russell Coutts (helmsman). Murray Jones, Craig Monk, Brad Butterworth, Rick Dodson. The legend Peter Blake was ‘forced’ to act as a sail rigger. The Americans, despite being combative and having never been humiliated, simply did not stand chance: 5-0 for the ‘all blacks’ of sailing.

Fay's long efforts, which began in 1987, were finally rewarded: thousands of people flocked to the streets of Auckland and even bigger crowds celebrated the return of the crew from San Diego. Indeed, they had succeeded in making their small country famous all over the world: the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron became the fourth custodian of the America’s Cup, Peter Blake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and prepared for his first defence on home waters.

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