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Upset Time Down Under
Sarah Ballard
November 10, 1986
Upstart Kookaburra III got the jump on her Aussie rivals in the America's Cup defenders' trials
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November 10, 1986

Upset Time Down Under

Upstart Kookaburra III got the jump on her Aussie rivals in the America's Cup defenders' trials

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Derek Clark, the Englishman, first met Murray during 1983 when Clark, who is trained in nuclear physics and electrical engineering, was working for Victory '83, a British syndicate. "As it happened," says the 35-year-old Clark, "we were fighting over the use of a welding machine in a rather obscure boatyard about 30 miles out of Newport."

Clark's title in the Kookaburra group is engineering systems manager. "That means analyzing how we utilize highly technological pieces of equipment on the boat in a sailing environment," he says. In an earlier era, Clark would have been called the navigator.

"Iain and I are alike," says Clark of Kookaburra III's skipper, "in that both of us are less interested in having our names in lights than in actually just going out and doing it."

The Kookaburra roster now numbers about 100. The crews live in attractive new town houses on Grey Street in Fremantle. Parry expects the houses will sell, when the Cup is over, for about $85,000 each. Life in the Kookaburra crew quarters is less regimented than in some syndicates. Wives and girlfriends live there too, and crewmen can take their meals with their families. When the working day is over, those who are able to can do as they pleaseā€”no rules, no curfews.

"Some of the groups try to turn into commando-type operations," says Clark, in an obvious reference to the Bond syndicate. "I think that shows a mental age of about 10: 'We melt them down and mold them in the morning.' That's pathetic. I mean, you don't treat people as objects. The time between 20 and 30 is when you're free and you can do crazy things, and some of these guys are giving up two years, 20 percent, of their free young lives. That's a lot to give up."

For now, nobody on the Kookaburra dock is complaining about anything. Murray goes about his business with Cliff, his doting mutt, at his heels, just as if he were not a 28-year-old in charge of a $13 million high-risk venture that is looking very good. Only a smirky smile now and then gives him away.

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