The Australian sailing community has lost one of its pioneers with the passing of Robert ‘Bob’ Oatley AO in Sydney over the weekend, aged 87. Bob’s love affair with sailing started in his early teenage years off the beach at Balmoral on Sydney Harbour and he remained an active sailor throughout his life.
Bob was recognised for his contribution to business and philanthropy, appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service to the Australian wine and tourism industries, to the sport of yacht racing, and to the community as a supporter of medical research and visual arts organisations.
At the annual Yachting Australia Awards held in November last year, Bob was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his was for his contribution from his early days sailing with lifelong friend Bill Buckle, who was also acknowledged at the Awards, and their formation of the Balmoral 12ft Sailing Club in 1945, Bob leading the Australian team to win the Admirals Cup and his success with Wild Oats.
Matt Allen, President of Yachting Australia knew Bob for many years, acknowledging he “made a huge impact through racing particularly with ‘Wild Oats’, raising awareness of the sport, advancements in technology and his interaction with sailors”, Matt said.
“Bob mentored many sailors and supported them throughout their careers and many people owe him a debt of gratitude. He was a Foundation Member of the Australian Sailing Team Patrons’ Program and we are extremely grateful for his contribution and support over many years.
“He replicated his business success in sailing by putting good people around him which proved a winning formula.
“Away from the water, Bob was a committed family man and loyal and generous to his friends and the sailing community mourns his loss”, Matt added.
On behalf of Yachting Australia, the Australian Sailing Team and the Australian sailing community, we offer our deepest condolences to his wife Valerie, children Sandy, Ian and Ros, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and extended family.