SI Vault
Sarah Ballard
February 11, 1985
Sports, especially those in the great outdoors, are the Australians' cup of tea. In the next 72 pages SI serves up features on the local America's Cup fever, on some scenic locales and swimwear, and on dashing surf lifesavers
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February 11, 1985

Their Cup Runneth Over

Sports, especially those in the great outdoors, are the Australians' cup of tea. In the next 72 pages SI serves up features on the local America's Cup fever, on some scenic locales and swimwear, and on dashing surf lifesavers

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In Fremantle there are those who say that Wieringa doesn't sleep at night, that he puts his head on a pillow merely long enough to think up new ways of making money. In fact, Wieringa does lie awake—worrying. He worries about the $10 million marina the government is building to house eight challenging and defending syndicates. "They haven't got the expertise to do it. I've seen their plan. It's not going to work," he says. He worries about the Fremantle economy. "It's a sleepy hollow, never mind the historic buildings. Some people spending a lot of money now will make some, but what about after? There are not many people here. In a 200-mile radius of Newport there are 30 million people." And he worries about a man he calls the Grouch. The Grouch, known in Newport as Tuna, is Arthur Wullschleger, a 67-year-old textile manufacturer from Fort Lauderdale who's the advance man-operations manager for the America II syndicate. Wullschleger is a gruff but kind person who has been an NYYC member for 32 years. Wieringa, like all card-carrying Aussies, professes to hate the NYYC, but he is very fond of the Grouch. To accommodate his ambivalence, he places Wullschleger and the NYYC in separate mental compartments. "The Grouch reminds me so much of my father it bloody kills me," Wieringa says. "I'm afraid the old fellow won't be able to stand the pressure."

Wullschleger spent World War II setting up advance bases in the Aleutians and in the South Pacific for the U.S. Navy, and he has brought that experience to bear in Fremantle. His responsibility is the establishment and operation at Fremantle Boat Lifters of the shore facility for America II, the 12-meter designed by Sparkman & Stephens that John Kolius will steer.

"Ever see three years' worth of sandpaper?" asks Wullschleger, throwing open the door of a cabinet in one of the four shipping containers that now serve as machine shop, rigging shop and storage space. "We travel like a turtle. We take our own shells with us."

With half an acre of work space, a shed as big as an airplane hangar, plans to build a separate sail loft, one experimental 12-meter already in Australian waters, another in the works and a third budgeted if the knowledge gained from the first two indicates it's necessary, the NYYC challenge is, at this point, well ahead of the field.

"We've found out what the Australians have been up against all these years," says Tom Ehman, the young executive director of the America II syndicate, of the complexities of racing far from home. "The other syndicates have no idea. But this facility is better than anybody's ever had in Newport, and the people have been terrific. If you ask somebody for directions they'll say, 'Follow me, I'm going that way.' Of course, you know they're not."

Captain Beresford Noble is the executive director of the Western Australian government's America's Cup committee and previously was general manager of the Fremantle Port Authority. He's in charge of nudging 25 government departments and agencies involved in the staging of the Cup defense from planning into action. One of his first acts was to recommend that every department begin a day-by-day countdown to the beginning of the trials in October 1986. "What caught us unaware," says Noble, "was that people would start so early. We didn't realize they would need completed facilities in less than a year from the end of the last Cup."

More startling to the Australians than the speed with which the challengers began to arrive was their number. The congregation at Newport in 1983 of seven challengers, three prospective defenders, various trial horses and even several Twelves used as spectator boats constituted the largest 12-meter fleet ever assembled—21. By April of last year, 24 potential challengers from nine countries" had each deposited a non-refundable $12,000 entry fee with the Royal Perth. Several have since dropped out of the running, but current guesses as to how many will actually show up in Perth range from eight to 18 syndicates and many more boats than that. "The harbor will be overloaded, that's all there is to it," says Noble. "But we will try to minimize the inconvenience."

On the federal level the man in charge is John Brown, Australia's minister for sport, recreation and tourism. "The government has allotted 30 million Australian dollars over two years to smooth the way and create permanent facilities," says Brown. "There are also funds to upgrade the Perth airport, to improve the marina, etcetera, but not to sponsor any yacht. I don't think there would be a great deal of public support for that."

In Australia, as elsewhere, yachting is largely a rich man's sport. The average Australian will give the boys on Australia II a heartfelt cheer, but he does not care to pay for the boat. That's the rich man's burden. Localism is also a factor in the government's reluctance to commit money to individual syndicates. The six states and two territories that make up Australia are ferociously chauvinistic. Money spent on one state's effort would be vigorously opposed by the others. Therefore, the Australian syndicates, of which there are five active, are scrambling for corporate benefactors. Considerable resentment exists over the fact that the Royal Perth has already picked off six of the choicest companies in the country to help defray the cost of staging the Cup events, instead of helping pay for the actual defense.

The government hopes that a smooth Cup season will increase tourism significantly, especially from the States. Its recent TV ad campaign in 12 U.S. cities to promote the Wonder Down Under—the ad features one of Australia's favorite entertainers, Paul ("We'll slip another shrimp on the barbie for ya") Hogan—is intended to aid that cause.

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