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Hugh Treharne
Hugh Treharne

Current City/HometownSydney
ClubMiddle Harbour Yacht Club
Boat Owner ofBright Morning Star
Boats Sailed OnAustralia II
Cuckoos Nest
Foxy Lady (AUS)
Stormy Petrel

Hugh Treharne

Hugh Treharne (OAM)

One of MHYC most successful sailors

Hugh was born in in Forbes and his family moved to Manly in Sydney when Hugh was two years old.

His father, David Treharne, purchased the Manly Boatshed in 1946 and the family lived above the business throughout Hugh's growing years. Hugh had a lucky escape when he was only two years old, having been rescued from drowning when his father's friend saw him lying on the bottom of the bay under the jetty.

Hugh's passion for sailing began almost immediately upon his arrival in Manly. His years living beside the water, around boaties and boat builders were the perfect environment to develop his all-round boating skills. On many occasions he was known to have helped his Dad rescue boaties in distress.

From the age of six Hugh built his own little sailboats, resourcefully using his mother's tea towels for sails. Sydney Harbour was his backyard and he and his brothers were very comfortable departing for long adventures, venturing long distances and often sleeping overnight at Store Beach.

Hugh's boat handling skills were developed in open 12ft, 16ft and 18ft racing skiffs on Sydney and Auckland harbours, winning State and National championships and the World 18ft championships with Thomas Cameron .

He sailed World Class level rating events winning National Championships in Quarter Ton (in 1976) on Waikikamukau  with brother Ian Treharne and Rob Mundle, Half Ton, Three-Quarter Ton, and One Ton classes, also winning the World One Ton Cup, and World Half Ton cup in Chicago in 1975.

He raced extensively on offshore ocean racers including Maxi yachts and sailed the Admirals Cup six times. He was on the winning yacht 'Ragamuffin' in the Fastnet gale of 1971 and on the yacht 'Impetuous' during the tragic gale -swept Fastnet race of 1979. Australia's team's amazing performance in that race gave them overall victory in the Admirals cup that year.

He has raced in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 28 times.

Hugh was Australia's first successful match racing skipper. He competed in match racing events around the world, taking out the prestigious Lymington Cup in the UK, and the Liberty Cup in New York. This skill earned him invitations to race as tactician in Americas Cups on four occasions.

He has been one of Australia's foremost sail makers. He designed and made the spinnaker that was used in the final downwind leg of the 1983 America's Cup, when Australia 2 gained 47 seconds to overtake Liberty.

But Hugh was also known for his willingness to help others.  In 1986 Hugh built a 52ft Peterson designed timber yacht, Bright Morning Star, which he used for five years to teach hundreds of Australian and international sailors  the joys of ocean sailing.

So it is the vision of the 1983 America's Cup victory that symbolises the success of Hugh Treharne.  The spirit and tenacity that he showed as tactician on Australia II when he famously, having returned in the 7 race series from being 3-1 down to 3 races each and being 57 seconds down on the final leg with a four and a half mile run in light wind to masterminded a victory together with navigator Grant Simmer in what now has become one of Australia greatest sporting successes and without a doubt Australian folk law.

ONE of the peninsula's most successful - and popular - yachtsmen, Hugh was last year inducted into the Boating Industry Association's hall of fame. 

 List of Achievements to come:





1970 World 18 Skiff Champion Thomas Cameron
1971 World One Ton Cup crew - winner Stormy Petrel (Syd Fisher) Auckland
1975 World Half Ton Cup - winner Foxy Lady (AUS) Chicago
1976 National Championships in Quarter Ton   Waikikamukau


2nd World Quarter Ton Cup


Sajima, Japan


Member of the winning Admiral's Cup Team




Tactician on winning America's Cup boat

Australia II

Rhode Island

1993 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 1993 - Sailing Master Cuckoos Nest Australia

MHYC Article

Hugh Treharne and the America's Cup

Australia II winning the Americas Cup in 1983
Australia II winning the Americas Cup in 1983
America's Cup

MHYC: The First 60 Years

Article by: Jeanine Treharne

Published: 1999

At 40 years of age, MHYC member, Hugh Treharne had a world 18-foot skiff title, world One Ton and Half Ton titles, and a win in the Fastnet Race. He was a member of the winning Admiral's, Southern Cross and Kenwood cup teams, and sailing master in countless ocean-racing successes. Like all leading match-racing yachtsmen, one dream seemed elusive: winning the America's Cup and ending the New York Yacht Club's 132-year winning streak.

In 1982, flamboyant designer Ben Lexcen ushered him into the top secret shed that housed Alan Bond's third America's Cup challenge 12-metre, Australia II. Treharne couldn't believe what he saw - an upside-down keel that was pure inspiration. He immediately accepted the post as tactician, and suggested to team coordinator John 'Chink' Longley that the team wrap a 'skirt' around Australia II's keel to prevent anyone having the chance to copy her. He also helped design a battle flag that would become famous around Australia: the boxing kangaroo with the red eye.

In order to finance the trip, Treharne and his wife Jeanine rented out their house and sold their car. In May 1983, they flew with their two young children and the team to Newport, Rhode Island. Four families, the Treharnes, Bertrands, Longleys and Schnackenbergs were squashed into two rented houses. Unmarried crew members were housed two or three to a room at the gracious old summer house, where fitness training began each morning at 5.30, ending with a huge breakfast and pep talks, planning strategies and assigning tasks to the 30-strong team. The families and crew lived commando style, fiercely protecting team secrets and watching any new girlfriend of unmarried team members with great suspicion.

The first night, John Longley's reconnaissance mission resulted in wonderful news for the team; he announced, beaming We have a good chance of winning this. The local guys reckon Dennis has been drinking very heavily at the Black Oyster every night. He's worried about us!'

Australia II kept winning and winning, and the Americans in Newport were worried. Attacks began against the eligibility of the keel, and personally against Ben Lexcen. The aim was to get the sailors' minds off their task. Team manager, Warren Jones, bore the brunt of the attacks and won every battle. His hair turned from black to grey in four months. Invaluable advice and wisdom came from the great Ken Beashel and Perth World War II heroes John Fitzhardinge and Newton Roberts. After the America s Cup win, Fitzhardinge told the team that they had enacted the true meaning of mateship, something he had not seen since his time in the trenches in World War II.

The team comprised great individual champions such as Olympic bronze medallist Colin Beashel, who spent 40 minutes atop Australia II's mast during one race; seven-times 18-foot skiff world champion Rob Brown, who devised the intricate code system for the tender yachts, reporting on wind conditions at each mark; mastman, world Etchells champion, Phil Smidmore, whose judgement of wind shifts was impeccable; the incredibly disciplined Peter Costello, who pumped the crew along like a man possessed during the countless tacking duels, and champion Olympic rowers Brian Richardson and Will Baillieu, who ground the winches without a sign of fatigue.

Ben Lexcen was chief court jester, putting a brave face on constant attempts to discredit his designing ability and usually keeping a step ahead of the opposition in the espionage stakes. His most famous trick was to carefully draw a fake design of Australia II's keel and leave it 'by mistake' in the large photocopy machine at the Newport Boatyard. It was there for 15 minutes before he 'desperately' phoned the boatyard to ask them to keep the plans for him and not to show anyone. That night the news was all around Newport and in the media. Next morning there was cheering for Ben at the crew breakfast as the photo of his 'design', and the claim that this was the real design of the secret keel was front page news in the Newport Times.

The close-knit, spartan living gave the Australia II team what they needed to make a miraculous comeback from staring defeat in the face (at three-one down) and needing three straight wins to take the cup home to Australia. Even top Aussie sportsmen thought it impossible. A leading AFL coach refused to be photographed with John Bertrand after the fourth race, saying 'I shouldn't be photographed with a losing team'. John's immediate retort was 'Come back in four days' time and see who are the losers'.

Australia II was leading the next race by 5 minutes when the time limit ran out. The Americans claimed that Australia had been 'sandbagging' in the downwind legs before the cup races and now they were amazingly fast. What they wouldn't accept was that downwind performance had been Australia's Achilles heel until John Bertrand perfected the art of steering with the unusual keel and Hugh came up with a breakthrough spinnaker design that gave Australia II the winning edge.

The rest is Australian sporting history. Three straight wins, the last seemingly impossible until the final downwind leg when Australia II gained a full minute and crossed just ahead of Liberty, forcing a 15-minute tacking duel of 47 tacks, where the team did not falter for a moment.

The team was duly rewarded with a visit to the White House and to the Australian Embassy in Washington, where Ambassador Cotton told the team they had accomplished more for Australia's image in America in four months than his Embassy had been able to achieve in 20 years. It was one of Australia's greatest sporting achievements.

MHYC Welcome Home Dinner

Hugh Treharne


Quarter Ton Cup 1978

Seaflyer's Christening Sept 78
"New Zealand had a design connection to the third placed boat, the Whiting-designed Australian entry Seaflyer, which finished with results of 5/7/2/1/3. Seaflyer was a development of Magic Bus, and of specially designed offset construction plywood and had a centreboard. Potentially Seaflyer was the fastest in the fleet, but a lack of tuning time probably cost the Australians the win. The boat had also been designed for optimum performance in light to moderate winds and flat seas. Unfortunately it blew hard for four of the five races, with vicious sea conditions common throughout, churned up by a combination of wind and racing tidal currents. 
As it was, Seaflyer lost the series by a mere two placings in the final 210 mile race - strong winds and high seas in the last half of the race proved too much for the lightweight centreboarder and she wasn't able to hold off the determined challenge from the two top Japanese yachts. Knowing they had to finish two places ahead of Magician V in the final race, Hugh Treharne and his crew drove Seaflyer to the limit, capsizing twice as they sought the achieve an overall victory. Her first capsize came midway through the race, the result of a wild broach under spinnaker. The second was at night while sailing upwind - a rearing wave knocked the boat into an involuntary tack, while the crew were still stacked on the weather rail. The Australians recovered from that more frightening episode to finish behind Kamikaze Express and Magician V (profile plan, left) to take out second overall. "

1979 Admirals Cup

Winning team members Phil Eadie John Crisp Hugh Treharne Peter Long Ken Down Tony De Youn

1979 Admirals Cup winning team members Phil Eadie John Crisp Hugh Treharne Peter Long Ken Down Tony De Youn
Ragamuffin crews over the seven Admirals Cup Syd Fischer contested the cup
Winning Admirals Cup Team: Ragamuffin Doug Patterson Hugh Treharne Peter Tierney Syd Fischer Peter Hemery Tony Ellis
The Admirals Cup Trophy

Australian Story: 

Down By The Sea Part One - Transcript:

Down By The Sea Part Two - Transcript:

The CYCA and the Americas Cup:

Hugh Treharne Mooring Minder (Afloat Magazine)

Another honour for America's Cup sailor Hugh Treharne

Hugh Treharne recieving ??
ONE of the peninsula's most successful - and popular - yachtsmen was inducted into the Boating Industry Association's hall of fame yesterday as part of the Sydney International Boat Show.

Hugh Treharne has sailed in all the world's major yacht races and was world champion in the half-ton class, but it was as the tactician on Australia II when it won the America's Cup in 1983 for which he is best-known to non-sailing Australians.

And it's a mark of the man that he will give $5000 that goes with the induction to Sailability, which helps disabled people become sailors.

"I was blessed to live where I did as a kid, above the family's boatshed at North Harbour," he said. "I sailed for years with the local sailing clubs and never took much notice of disabled kids.

"Then I saw what paralympic sailor Daniel Fitzgibbon did - silver at the Beijing Olympics and gold at the London Olympics - with little help from local yachting associations. That's the sort of person I want to support. The hall of fame is a real honour but I'm a bit confused why it's happening."

Hugh Treharne was the tactician on Austalia II when it won the America's Cup 30 years ago in 1983. He is going to the US for the anniversary. On Saturday he is being inducted into the Boating Industry of Australia hall of fame.

Later this month Mr Treharne will fly to San Francisco for a 30-year reunion with most of his crewmates aboard Australia II when it made yachting history.

San Francisco is the venue for this year's America's Cup and Mr Treharne said he was looking forward to seeing the incredible multihull yachts that will compete for the trophy.

"It was an important time for all of us," he said. "We get together every five years or so but it's always a very private thing.

"This time it's where the race will be held and will be a bit more public.

"It will be a good opportunity to see how everyone is getting on."

2013 Winning America's Team Reunion 

2013 Winning America's Team Reunion
2013 Winning America's Team Reunion


David Salter Interview Hugh Treharne
To mark the 30th anniversary of their epic America's Cup victory over the US defender Liberty, David Salter interviewed Australia II's tactician Hugh Treharne at the Club after the May general meeting. Rare footage of the seven challenge races was also shown. Hugh provided the packed audience of members with fascinating insights into the historic 1983 campaign. Here are some extracts: 
DAVID SALTER: Thanks for your time, Hugh. First up, what exactly does the tactician do? 
HUGH TREHARNE: Well, it's like chess. You've got to figure out all the moves and to put yourself in the right place at the right time. And that entails being able to accurately predict the wind. I was blessed with particularly good eyesight. I could see wind and wind shifts, and I could see rounding marks a long way before anyone else. Just subtle little changes in the feel and weather I could sense. And I suppose I got reasonably good at it. The trick is, we had to figure out which side of the course was preferable in terms of wind speed. And generally speaking we always tried to start on the side of the opposition where we thought there was more wind. You don't need very much more wind than the opposition to beat him. If you separate 100 yards you can easily get 0.1, 0.2, 0.3 of a knot more or less than the opposition. You've just got to get it right and go where the wind is. SKULLDUGGERY 
DS: The tactician is also feeding direct input to the helmsman about, literally, what to do. When to tack, which way to go. The question that arises for me is: who has the final say? You or the helmsman? 
HT:  Oh, well, the helmsman overrides everything if he wants to. But generally he [John Bertrand] didn't. Particularly, if Grant Simmer and I would make a recommendation to him, he'd take it. And it was very rare that he didn't feel that it was right, and then we had to just wear it. 
DS: But every now and then he would? 
HT:  Oh, yeah. It was just that he knew best. When you feel a boat on the wheel, you really know. 
DS: During the first race there was a disaster for Australia II. One of the pulleys in the steering gear mechanism pulled out of its bracket inside the boat. Bertrand was steering on trim tab alone. 
HT: Yeah, I jumped down the aft hatch and got a bit of line and a snatch block and tied it up. And then I got a screwdriver and I wound it up like a windlass, a Spanish windlass, to tighten it up and it came good. It was good enough, anyway. But we lost a lot - we lost the race, really. We were actually dribbling past him on the run when the steering gear failed and had it stayed together we would have beaten him around the mark. We knew that we just had to stop this sort of stuff happening. 
DS: Can we talk about starts for a moment? The interesting thing is that in this series there was only one race in which the boat that won the start was never headed and went on to win. In all the other races the lead changed up the first leg. HT: The boats were very evenly matched and Conner is a very skilled sailor, obviously, and John was quite a bit nervous, I guess. In the earlier races he was much more confident and he was brilliant. But racing against this bloke it was harder, and it showed. John was just not getting his starts. He'd lost confidence with it - bad time to lose confidence! He had his time and distance judgment screwed up. Generally, in the practice races and early races he was pretty good, but he was just nervous on the occasion - the importance of the occasion, I guess. He wasn't as calm as the other bloke. You just had to try and calm him down. 
DS:  I'm told that after losing one start he absolutely did his block and threw the wheel away. Is that right? 
HT:  I steered only a little bit. 
DS: So are the starts really that important? 
HT: Well, it's a lot more fun winning the finish than the start. 
DS: It was your direct responsibility, as tactician, and particularly in the light stuff, to really know which side to go - to know where the breeze was going to be. You had a trick. Tell us about it. 
HT: Well, up until 15 minutes before the start, you could have 'outside assistance'. And we'd simply go out early and have two rubber ducks with some very skilled people aboard - two blokes in each boat. They went out on each tack - port tack and starboard tack - to the layline, where you meet at the top of the course. We had those blokes go out to that point, then come 25% of the way in and just sit there for two hours. And they used to log the wind speed and the wind direction and report it to me. I used to, on a daily basis, code it so no-one else knew what they were talking about. 
DS: You had to code it because everyone could hear on VHF? 
HT: Yeah, they could hear. There was nothing private in any of these radios. So I'd tell them to either increase or decrease the wind speed, so the direction and the wind speed were wrong. You see, these boats can do 6 knots in 6 knots of wind and if you just get one tenth of a knot more boat speed, you only need one tenth of a knot of wind to get it. It's significant, so you just go where the wind is and you've got to figure out how to get there. That's my job. To be able to put the boat on the course, relative to the other boat, where the most wind is. I didn't get it right all the time, but I got it right more than the other bloke. 
DS: You were also deeply involved in the sail program. I know that early on in the campaign, Jim Hardy went to Alan Bond and Warren Jones and said that he didn't think the spinnakers were stable enough in light breezes and that you should have a chance to supervise their cut, and the build of some sails. Tell us about your role in spinnakers. 
HT:  Well, that's true I guess. Hardy went in to bat and sort of said we need to do something about it, and I had the opportunity to take over without any hindrance. I could do what I liked, basically, on the re-cuts. And slowly but surely I just got them better, particularly downwind in the light winds. All spinnakers look nice and firm when the wind's on the side when you're reaching - they sit perfectly. But when you try to sail as deep as you can to get down as fast as you can you're right on the verge of the spinnaker being 'jiggly'. You know, it's just hanging there. If you go any lower the clew will drop and the sheet will droop down toward the water. You've got to hold it up so the clew's just up and you've got to really round the sails on the edges. And that's what I did. They got better. Tom Schnackenberg was fantastic on the fore and aft sails, but he didn't seem to have a real good grip on spinnakers. Between the two of us we just sorted it out, and got 'em good. 
DS: After the fourth race you were down 1-3. That must have seemed like the bottom of the pit. Was there a change in tactical approach from that point? 
HT:  Not really. Bondy was running around like a chook with his head cut off trying to figure out whether he should sack anyone or whatever. I'd been through that in 1974 [on Southern Cross]. I was the tactician and I was 'excused'. He was looking for excuses. He was looking for ways of changing personnel but Bertrand wouldn't let him. Bertrand just said 'absolutely no'. He sorted it out with Bondy. I didn't even know the discussion was going on. We knew we were fast if we did it right. We just had to try a lot harder. 
DS: Can you unravel the mystery of Conner's multiple ratings for us? 
HT:  Liberty had something going on that none of the other 12 metres did. The fact is they did a deal with the measuring people so that they could adjust the sail sizes on the boat and adjust the freeboard of the boat from day to day. They had three different valid rating certificates. If you want to get more sail you have to have less stability and shorter waterline length. To do that you've got to take lead out. Because the boat floats higher, the waterline's shorter. But it tips over more, so if you get caught with big sails and the wind comes up you're not very fast. And if you put the little sails up and long waterline and the wind doesn't come up, you're slow. So he could, in fact, change his rating. We didn't think that was possible. We didn't think that was allowed. Nobody else did except Conner. He kept it a good secret. 
DS: But didn't the Americans also have other ways of tweaking their rating? 
HT: I noticed that when the Liberty was being prepared for sea they would bring lots and lots of sails into their tender and their various chase boats. I thought, 'Gee, they've got lots of sails. I can't imagine how they could possibly need them.' A lot of them were bricked up tight, and I saw white sails. I thought, 'Nobody's got white jibs anymore. They went out years ago.' They were Dacron sails bricked up into little tight parcels. I saw them putting them on the yacht and I thought, 'Hang on. If you're putting your racing sails on, how can you have these as well?' So in the sixth race I decided I'd catch them out. I spoke to Benny and Warren Jones before they left the dock and said 'At 18 minutes to the start I'm going to get you on the two-way radio and I'm going to ask you to make sure you get both boats are measured straight after the race. And as soon as I got on the radio and said that, a great big chase boat came flying in to Liberty and sails came out of it like you wouldn't believe. They had the boat in light air trim with extra weight in it. I reckon that it would have floated low. Anyway, when they took all the sails out - just before the start - the wind came up and they were slow. We beat them by three minutes, or something like that - it was a long way, anyway. It was a good wind, and they were from here to Bradley's Head behind. 
DS:  There was something else you noticed when you were on the reaching legs. 
HT:  Yeah, well, there's another way to do it. In the bilge of those boats the lead is so far down they had plates fore and aft with bulkheads in them. I think they were putting water in there, but I'm not sure. When we were in the earlier races with the spinnaker up they were always pumping water out. I know, because I was looking at it when we were behind them. Unless that thing's leaking they were taking water in - then pumping it out. 
DS: In the final, deciding race, Australia II took an early lead, but then fell behind. At the gybe mark Liberty's lead went out to 45 seconds, at which point a lot of people in Australia went to bed. Take us through that last, dramatic spinnaker leg. 
HT:  Well, we were able to sail the boat as deep as we could, and make him do the same. When he had to try and match us, he couldn't. That's all. Before that, he was 52 seconds ahead. Looking upwind to the left I could see some wind between the spectator boats as we got further away from the weather mark. You could see that there was good wind toward the back of the fleet so we just kept going toward it. And that's how we closed the gap. But then, when they were very close together, we just dribbled past them. Not by much - I think it was only by 20 seconds at the bottom mark. I steered a bit in that race, on the final leg, but it wasn't because Bertrand was upset. It was a tacking duel that he couldn't see and I was facing back. I just grabbed it, steering backwards, and he let it go.
One thing that was interesting I found out later. They had that Good Year blimp up in the sky. And they had that famous sail maker bloke, Lowell North, up in the blimp and he was on the television. He was doing a commentary, you know, watching the race and talking about it - talking about the wind shifts. And it wasn't until months later that I found out that they had a TV on their boat [Liberty], a 12-volt TV set. DS:  So he was calling the shifts for them? HT:  Yeah, but he screwed up, because the wind that I found was out on the left hand side. We went for it, and got it. But Lowell North told him [Conner] there was better wind in the middle, and there wasn't. Serves him right. I just had to find something. It was the most important thing just to get more wind and go where the wind was. Luckily we did.


Bight Morning Star
Flying 11 Champions 1987/88 Hugh Treharne with Trent Wildman and Sam Jackson
Manly Junior Club Champions, 1987.88 Hugh Treharne with Jonathon Burke and Michael Kellerman
Hugh Treharne
Hugh Treharne
Hughie Treharne's 1970 World Champion "Thomas Cameron ".


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