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The Year Three Westlawn Alumni Duked It Out For The America’s Cup!

Chance, Mull, and Swarbrick Go For Broke!


In it’s seventy-five years, Westlawn alumni have worked in almost every corner of the boating industry and have had many impressive accomplishments. Perhaps no single episode speaks more highly of the skill of Westlawn alumni, however, than the 1987 America’s Cup. In that year, Westlawn alumni competed against each other in not two but three America’s Cup challengers, two of which faced off in the final. Here’s the full story from the news release of the day:


“FREMANTLE, AUSTRALIA—Outside of being Twelve Meter yachts that contend for the America’s Cup, there was precious little that the U.S. challenger Stars and Stripes and the Australian Defender Kookaburra III had in common.

         Philosophies, personalities, and design parameters—particularly design—was very different in the Australian and American camps. Yet, strangely enough, there was one similarity: Leading members of  the of both boats studied at the Stamford, Connect-based Westlawn School of Yacht Design.

         Westlawn alumnus Britton Chance Jr., 48, who has been involved in the America’s Cup since 1974, was part of he team that designed Dennis Connor’s Stars & Stripes. John Swarbrick, 32, co-designer of Kookaburra III graduated from Westlawn in 1981.

         Since the America’s Cup was won by the Australians in 1983, breaking the sporting world’s longest winning streak, it has been generally acknowledged that superior design of Australia II was responsible for the win. Thus, the 1987 Cup was considered a design race as much as a water race.

         In this series, which took place in the Indian Ocean off Fremantle, Western Australia, the American yacht Stars & Stripes reclaimed the Cup by beating the Australian yacht Kookaburra III in a decisive victory.

         Twelve-Meter yachts are a “development” class. Anything goes, so long as the final boat, its mast, keel and sail area fit into the complex equation called “The Twelve-Meter Formula.”

         To be chosen as a member of a design team for a Cup boat is a distinct honor. To design the winner (or even the challenger or defender that makes to into the finals, for that matter) is the pinnacle of the naval architect’s craft. Westlawn alumni Gary Mull was chief of deign for the other American yacht which made it to the challenger semi-finals: San Francisco’s USA.

         That two former Westlawn students have battled out the design criteria for the 1987 America’s Cup, is, according to Westlawn President Jules Fleder, “a definite honor for the school and reflects most highly on Brit Chance and John Swarbrick.”


Westlawn alumni are currently on Team Alinghi and on the BMW Oracle Racing Team. Perhaps the future will bring a repeat Westlawn A-Cup face-off!


Founded in 1930, the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology is the only nationally accredited and state certified distance-learning school of small-craft design in the United States. As the not-for-profit educational affiliate of the American Boat and Yacht Council, Westlawn’s primary function is to assure a continual source of highly skilled designers to the marine industry. To learn more about Westlawn, please call (410) 956-7100 or visit the Westlawn web site at www.westlawn.edu.