x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

What's it like ... to win the America's Cup

John Bertrand: "As we crossed the finish line the feeling was of relief that we'd at last managed to do the job".

As we crossed the finish line the feeling was of relief that we'd at last managed to do the job. We didn't believe we'd got it until we were about a boat length from the finishing line because in those situations, things can break and goodness knows what go wrong. So when we got to the point where, even if the mast fell down, we could push the boat across the line by swimming, the relief was huge.

Then, afterwards, there was the excitement. It had taken us 14 years - four America's Cups - to get there. In many ways it was the dream that kept us motivated all those years. It was driven by Alan Bond [the chairman of the syndicate] and the chance of creating history was pretty compelling in its own right. To put the America's Cup into context, it started before the US Civil War and the modern Olympics and the Americans had had 132 years of successfully defending it.

In those 14 years we had a huge build-up of knowledge and skills. It became clear that what we needed to do was very simple. Most America's Cup teams implode because these are long journeys. Unlike a normal sporting event it is four years together, with a huge amount of pressure on the individuals. Usually they break down because of lack of trust. Driving the boat is just a small part of it. To win it required a very professional and tight-knit organisation, which we were.

Technically we were at the top of our game too and raised the bar in pretty much every area. It changed the America's Cup forever and for Australia it was huge. In a survey not long ago, the three most memorable events of modern Australian history were John F Kennedy's assassination, Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon and Australia II crossing the finish line to win the America's Cup. But my strongest success is the fact that I have been very happily married for over 40 years. In the world of the America's Cup most marriages end within 10 years because of all the pressures, so I'm very proud of that.

In September 1983, as skipper of Australia II, John Bertrand won the America's Cup by 43 seconds in the final race of the regatta. It ended the Americans 132-year stranglehold on the trophy - the longest winning streak in the history of sport. sports@thenational.ae