Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 26, 2013

30 years ago in Newport, Rhode Island

The American team has won the America’s Cup after beating New Zealand. It was a surprise as they were well behind, but went on to an exciting win in the 34th America’s cup.

I was in Newport, Rhode Island 30 years ago when the Australian boat, Australia II, took the cup from America who had held it since the beginning of the competition. It was the best time to be in gorgeous Newport.

We had befriended someone who was on the support boat for the Australian team and we went out each day to watch the ocean races. On calm days this was a bit like watching grass grow, but the coastline is beautiful and it was fun to be part of the action. These photos are 30 years old and have been sitting in the bottom af a box, so they are a bit faded.



Every day the enormous Australian flag would be raised above the dock and Men at Work would belt out “I come from a land down under” just to let everyone know the Australians were in town.



The Boxing Kangaroo flag also flew high over Newport.



For a long time the Australian boat was well behind the Americans, but slowly they began to win a few races and it became possible that they had a chance of winning.

Australians who had never taken an interest in sailing became riveted to their TV sets and were suddenly sailing experts. There was much discussion about the secret keel and there were rumours that the Americans had sent divers down to try to get a look at it.

The keel was kept safely under wraps whenever the boat was pulled out of the water.


My son, who was 10 at the time, wrote to me and at the bottom of the letter there was a PS…”Mum, I think the Americans are doing something to our boat.” I was obviously expected to investigate since I was on the spot.

On the day of the deciding race there was no wind and the race was called off. The conditions were the same the next day so we decided not to go out on the support boat…big mistake.

The race went ahead and we had to watch from a TV in a bar onshore. At one point the Australian boat was trailing badly and I couldn’t watch.  I went for a walk and returned just in time to see Australia II cross the finish line first.

We rushed back to the dock only to find the gates locked. We climbed a few fences and made it in time to see the victorious boat sail in.





We were there to see Australia II raised from the water and the winged keel revealed for the first time.  Unfortunately that photo seems to have disappeared.

It was an exciting time to be Australian. The Americans were very gracious in defeat and their congratulations were genuine.

I loved my time in Newport and I think it is a pity that the race is no longer held there. It was the perfect setting for the race.

It was 1983 and like everyone else I had a perm. Here I am sitting on someone’s cute car in front of the place we were staying. It was one of the fabulous mansions which had been converted to apartments.


You get an even better look at the perm in the next photo..also in a cute car.


Congratulations to the winning American team…I wish I had been there.


  1. Sounds like a fun time you had 30 years ago. We were invited to a party to watch the races with the yacht club here in Cuenca, but couldn’t go. I know–Yacht club high in the Andes? Well we’re only 3 hour drive from the Pacific coast where folks keep boats, I suppose.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • I hope you get to go to a yachting party. It should be great fun.

  2. Ahh the memories! Love the photos, especially the perm. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I wasn’t in Newport, just at home teaching in Sydney and laughing along with everyone else at Bob’s patriotic announcement.

    • I watched Bob on TV from Newport. I think the whole of Australia watched that race.

  3. Would have been good to see NZ win this one. I too had one of those perms!

    • New Zealand was so far ahead, who would have thought the Americans could pull that one off…good on them.

  4. Your pictures are really great! And the perm was very cute 🙂 i was never really into sailing or the America’s cup race until it came into our backyard, San Francisco! I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the brand new America’s Cup Pavilion and to be there for half a race (the race was cancelled midway due to high winds on the bay). Nonetheless, the congenial spirit was everywhere! There were tons of people milling around and everyone was having a great time! Both boats raced right in front of me as they were heading back to dock, and they were beautiful ( and very large!) it was so much fun to see all the other support boats all over – also very large! We will see where the next race will be held – who knows, maybe they’ll go back to Newport (though I secretly hope they’ll have it in SF once more because it was so much fun!!)

    • It is a completely different race now. The boats are nothing like the old ones. I’m sure the race was great in San Francisco.

  5. You are too cute and I love the story. I too had a perm at that time-what was I thinking?

    • What were we all thinking??? I have completely straight hair, that was ridiculous.

  6. What great memories you shared, thank you. Didn’t we all have perms than?

    • I wonder what caused the curly hair craze. I hope it never returns.

  7. Great memories Deb. When Fremantle the Cup it was a great time in WA. Love the perm as well, I think we all had one like that at some stage.

    • I feel very lucky to have been in Newport the year that Australia won the America’s Cup. The whole town seemed to be involved…it was very exciting.

  8. Great pictures Debra. I was living here in the US at the time and a gracious American neighbour came over with a bottle of champagne to congratulate us. My Husband was at the office and was calling me every 5 mins for updates. He was in a meeting, the only Aussie with a room full of Americans. They were all in shock after the race.

    • I think everyone was a bit stunned that the race had finally been won by a team from another country. I’m glad it was Australian.

  9. Deb what a great piece, well done…..

    • Thank you. I can’t believe it was 30 years ago. It seems like yesterday.

  10. Oh Deb — you never cease to amaze me — from now on I’ll call you “Debbie everywhere” — sure wish I was(un married) in Newport in 1983!

    • I get around. I was in Newport for 6 weeks around the time of the race. It was my first trip to USA and I have been back many times. I love it.

  11. When I first read 30 years ago I thought gosh that is a long time ago. Then I thought I remember that race and the excitement very well
    Great post. Well done with the photos
    Where does time go

    • Time flies when you are having fun.

  12. I was living in Perth at that time. Can you imagine the excitement. Everyone sat up all night to watch it on TV.

    • I think all of Australia was glued to their TVs for the race. I remember calling my mother to tell her the Australian team had won and she very quickly told me she knew all about it.

  13. You have told me that story about Brandon before. Love it. And love the 80’s perm. Looking good. And still looking good. X

    • I’m sure Brandon will be thrilled that I have shared his little comment.

  14. Love the boxing kangaroo flag – great fun!
    (and we all had those perms!)

    • It was a very exciting time to be in Newport. I am so pleased I was there.

  15. You were such a cutie!!!! Still are in my book. Beautiful pictures…such a warm aura of a lovely time…

  16. Ran into your blog from another expat blog about Sicily. I have been 10 years now living here but I was there in Newport (I was born and raised in RI) what a time! What a never ending party! I cannot believe 30 years have passed.

    • “Here” being Sicily!

    • I can’t believe it was 30 years ago either. I loved Newport and it was such an exciting time to be there. The town was full of people and there were parties every night. We went to Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. It was my first taste of USA and I have returned many times, but only once to Newport. It was great, but it seemed so quiet after my first visit.
      I am yet to visit Sicily, but I am very keen to spend time there.

  17. Just discovered this thread. When the Team returned to Oz it was a national holiday-tickertape parades, etc. Alan Bond was a national hero. Six months later, he was in jail.
    When the San Diego YC won the cup back, they let it get out of hand. They hadn’t the respect for it that the NYYC had for 130+ years.
    Now it’s a travesty.

    • I think it was quite a bit kore than 6months later that he went to jail. He certainly suffered from a loss of memory there for a while. He seems to have got it back successfully since being out of jail.

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