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People Top 5
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- December 26, 1983
- Vol. 20
- No. 26
An Impish Aussie Designer and His Magic Keel Haul America's Cup Down Under After 132 Years of U.S. Ownership
When Australia II was hoisted out of the water five hours after that deciding seventh encounter last September, non-Aussies got their first look at the invention Lexcen had until then kept shrouded in plastic when it wasn't in the ocean. They saw a squat keel that seemed to be upside down and had "winglets" flaring off the bottom. Looking back on the whole heated summer, during which competitors of several nations fought him on legal ground as well as on the sea, and even sent divers to photograph his keel underwater, Lexcen now says he never doubted the technical supremacy of his creation.
Having been proved on water, Lexcen's winged keel was legally sanctioned, once and for all, last month by the International Yacht Racing Union in London, a decision that sent designers around the world scurrying to their drawing tables. "All the shackles are off, and we're heading into the most interesting period in the history of yacht design," Lexcen says with relish. "It's unlikely that I designed the best boat of its type on the first try."
As inaugurator of the new era, Lexcen is now home in Sydney, charged by syndicate head Alan Bond with cooking up a new 12-meter boat to defend the Cup in January 1987 on the Indian Ocean off Fremantle. Lexcen often works on his assignment for up to three days without sleep.
In the wake of victory, he is forgiving of the often questionable tactics of his foes. He lays the Americans' legal antics to "the terrible responsibility of defending this bloody relic, like an icon." Won't he himself feel that way in three years? "I don't consider the Cup a religious icon," Lexcen scoffs, smiling. "It's just a bloody beautiful old thing." Right you are, old digger.
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