Southern Cross and the America's Cup
Southern Cross is a day sailing boat in the Whitsundays that offers its guests the chance to sail on board an authentic racing boat.
Southern Cross was designed by Bob Miller, constructed in Western Australia and was destined to be a racing boat from the beginning. She was built to the America's Cup specifications of 12 metres and competed in 1974 as the first Australian aluminum yacht to do so. The race took place at Newport, Rhode Island, where her American defender, Courageous, walked away with the title.
The America's Cup is one of the most prestigious races in the world. More money has been spent defending this sailing title than any other trophy in the entire world. The winning boat is dependent on many elements, including leadership, teamwork, technology and weather. Careful and sensitive techniques and planning go into each race in hopes of the best outcome.
The 1974 America's Cup began its first race with Southern Cross in a slight lead. However, a slight shift in the wind allowed her competitor to take the lead, who ended up finishing ahead of Southern Cross by 4 minutes, 54 seconds.
The second race took place the next day and began with a near collision, in which both flag rose their protest flags. Southern Cross took a slight lead that caused Courageous to tack and get some clear air, which Southern Cross tacked to cover. The rest of the race was a tacking duel, each boat trying to gain on the other while also preventing the other boat from getting any good wind. Courageous ended up finishing 1 minute 11 seconds ahead of Southern Cross. Southern Cross said later in an interview that they lost the race due to the fact that they didn't tack back to cover the wind when Courageous got the lead.
The third race began with both boats going over the line too soon and both having to restart the race, which turned it into a race to see who can restart first. Courageous won the start and gained on Southern Cross, who completed the restart 16 seconds later.
After the race was over it was said that "when 12 metre boats race, the difference in boat speed is often very small. One boat may have a slightly smoother bottom, better sails or better trimmed sails, a better helmsman or even one who is, at the moment, concentrating better, or a better hull shape...." For whatever reason, Courageous again grabbed the lead in the third race and advanced quickly, leaving Southern Cross behind to take the win ahead by 5 minutes, 27 seconds. She also won the last and final race by over 7 minutes, meaning she won 4 out of 4 races against Southern Cross.
While Southern Cross didn't win against the American's for the title, she did walk away as a finalist, making Australia proud and proving herself as a top racing boat. Her performance was beautiful and well planned, with a team that was passionate about racing and the cup.
She is however, the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which she earned on her way to compete against the American's in 1974. Her designer, Bob Miller, said that 'yacht design is still an art... Probably one of the only arts left where the artist has to prove his work by active performance. He doesn't just hang it up for people to look at and say 'ah that's pretty.' It's got to get out there and do something and if it doesn't do anything it's a bad painting, and if it wins it's a valuable painting." While Southern Cross didn't win, she did prove herself to be a worthy challenger that continues to impress even to this day.
In the early '90s after finishing her racing career, Southern Cross underwent renovations to become a charter yacht in the Whitsundays, where she still calls home. Today she takes out 30 passengers a day to visit the Whitsundays, going to locations such as Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach and taking the time to snorkel. Guests get the chance to sail on board a real racing boat, understanding what it would be like to race this beauty in a real competition. She weighs in at 32 tonnes and has a mast that stands 97 feet high in the air and has the Southern Cross constellation painted down the side, making her an unmissable sight and a local favourite in the Whitsundays today.