Bob Oatley passes away at age 87

Bob Oatley, the billionaire owner of eight times Sydney-Hobart line honours winner Wild Oats XI, has passed away after a short illness.

Mr Oatley, who made his fortune in the wine industry when he sold his Rosemount Estate brand to Southcorp for a reported $1.5 billion in 2001, was also the owner of Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays and is credited with bringing the “tired” resort back to life. Hamilton Island Race Week has become an internationally-recognised sailing event under the Oatley family ownership.

As well as his keen interest in ocean racing, Mr Oatley was a very strong supporter of the Australian Sailing Team, contributing major funds to campaigns for Olympic gold medals.

London Laser gold medallist Tom Slingsby posted this tribute to Mr Oatley:

RIP Bob Oatley. A amazing guy who gave so much to our sport. I personally would not be in the position I am today without his help. His funding was the reason I was able to start training full time as a sailor and quit my other jobs. Australia is one of the leading countries in sailing because of Bob. My thoughts are with the family.

Mr Oatley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2014 Australia Day honours 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.

There was serious concern over his health prior to the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart. However he was on hand for the traditional passing of his walking cane to Wild Oats' skipper Mark Richards two days before the start. The cane, which featured a model of the supermaxi's hull as the handle, was considered an essential good luck charm by the crew. It was Bob's way of “being on board”.

The Oatley business empire has been in the hands of eldest son Sandy Oatley for some time, and that situation is expected to continue.

More information will be posted as it comes to hand. Meanwhile, our condolences go out to the Oatley family and the many friends Bob made during his long involvement in the sport.

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