No sane person knows anything about the rules of international yacht racing.
Yet in that week, in that Spring, of perfect swimming pool blue skies and patriotic hyperbole, every man on every bus, every mum at every school pickup, every kid delivering every suburban newspaper on every Malvern Star, every one of us, to a man, was an instant expert on the finer intricacies of 12 Metre international yacht racing.
From the sterns of our suburban armchairs we tacked and yelled commands, we unleashed giant gold and green spinnakers and ran with the breeze.
September 26, 1983. Australia and America are locked up, three races apiece. This seventh and deciding race is more than an exercise in seamanship. This is a test of nationhood.
For 132 years the auld mug has been bolted to the polished mahogany floors of the New York Yacht Club, defying the best efforts of the great champions and great nations.
But now, this Summer, this day, we, Australia, Johnny Bertrand and that magnificent boat with our secret weapon, Benny Lexcon and his secret winged keel, Bondy’s beautiful obsession, we are poised to do what no other nation has come close to achieving. Us. Our little nation. We of the ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ and the ‘Land Down Under’ where women glow and men plunder. As a nation, we can almost taste it.
And then, famously “ I tell you what, any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum” ‘Any boss’. Even in our triumph he’s unwittingly representing the worker.
The early hours of the morning, we’ve been up all night staring at the idiot box. We’re tacking and we’re turning, the momentum all with us, back from the first few losses, now two straight and on a roll, the wind at our back. And now. Look. Australia II tacks, and again and again, covering Liberty. Then one final time. And now she slides past the Committee boat. And the gun rings and the foghorns blare and there is powder and smoke. And a bleary eyed Nation screams.
Cut to Hawkie, our nation’s PM, sunk in his chair, looking half tanked, smug and chuckling like he’s won the lotto or nabbed a looker, surrounded by empty glasses and blokes patting backs. “You’re on Hawkie”. “Prime Minister, you’re on”.
Hawkie is on. “I don’t think there’s ever been a greater moment of pride in Australia than in what you guys have done…One of the great moments of Australian history…..People who are not just interested in sport should see what all Australians are capable of”
Hawkie guffaws and has another drink. And we’re right behind him.
Grins Hawkie, now sporting a borrowed pimp jacket plastered with Australian flags and logos ”Were going to be a nation of zombies. May as well declare a public holiday eh.” Mirth. Another glass.
And then, famously “ I tell you what, any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.”
“Any boss’. Even in our triumph he’s unwittingly representing the worker.
“Were all so privileged to be part of it” enthuses Hawkie.
And to a man, we were.