Bob Oatley honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Club
  • NEWS
  • By Stacey French
  • 07 Nov 2015 10:00:00
Yachting Australia


Lifelong friends Bob Oatley AO and Bill Buckle OAM have been honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their contribution to sailing at the Yachting Australia Awards.

In 1967 Oatley joined Middle Harbour Yacht Club and began racing a Yachting World Diamond. His commercial activities however – the coffee industry in New Guinea and the development of the Rosemount wine business in the Hunter Valley – meant he couldn’t sail as often as he would have liked.

Bob Oatley

Bob Oatley

In 1983 he stepped back into sailing when he had John McConaghy build the original Wild Oats, one of the world’s first composite construction yachts. But it was in the early 2000s when the name Bob Oatley became recognised across the sport and the nation. He pioneered the canting keel concept into the Grand Prix level of ocean racing with his latest Wild Oats yacht. The yacht proved to be remarkably successful and as a result, it led to Oatley leading the Australian team into Cowes, England and winning the Admiral’s Cup, the world ocean racing team championship.

In 2005, he took the canting keel concept to the limit when he launched Wild Oats XI, a 30 metre supermaxi that is the most successful yacht in the 70 year history of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. She has secured line honours on eight occasions in ten starts, won on corrected time on two occasions and twice broken the course record time.

While Oatley made waves in the wine business, Buckle also forged a successful career in the motor vehicle and motor racing industry.

When he re-entered the sport of sailing, it was in an impressive fashion. Buckle launched a 40ft light displacement sloop called ‘Buckle Up’. The yacht evolved as a consequence of his frustration with racing a classic 43ft sloop on Pittwater which was not fast enough downwind even with a taller rig and larger spinnakers. His sailing expertise and freewheeling mind resulted in the creation of a remarkable yacht that lived up to all his expectations.

Bill Buckle

Bill Buckle

The project also led to the development of a construction material that helped revolutionise the building of light displacement yachts around the world. He would later use a similar material to build a radical 50ft highly efficient wave-piercing power catamaran which could travel most economically at 24 knots when powered only by twin 230hp sterndrives.

It was Buckle’s foresight and drive that was the foundation for the success of the high performance Boatspeed 23 class. He saw the potential of the initial design and introduced it to the Australian sailing team.

Oatley and Buckle will receive their awards at the 2015 Yachting Australia Awards, taking place at Sydney’s Doltone House on Friday 6 November.

Background information about the Yachting Australia Lifetime Achievement Award:

In 2008 the Lifetime Achievement Award was introduced to acknowledge the outstanding contributions to sailing or boating after an involvement of at least 20 years.

Previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award are:

2013/14 John Calvert-Jones and Bill Gale
2012/13 Syd Fischer and Ian Grant
2011/12 Michael Fletcher
2010/11 Ian Kingsford-Smith, Jim Orrell and Gary Ticehurst
2009/10 Tony Mooney and Kevin Wood
2008/09 John Flower, John Hurley and Edmund Michael Burke
2007/08 Graeme Owens and Harry Tedstone


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