Obituary – Remembering Andrew ‘Plymo’ Plympton

By Di Pearson

Our great sailing friend, raconteur, business associate, administrator, chairman and successful past president of two sports, passed away on Sunday after a long battle with cancer – he was 74.

At this point, Plymo might say, “I’m glad I’ve finally kept you idiots waiting.”

Variously also known as ‘Cheese’ (check the smile), ‘Prez’ and ‘Admiral’, Plymo was the longest serving president of Australian Sailing (where he was made a Life member) a past president of St Kilda Football Club, an AFL administrator, a member of the Australian Olympic Committee executive (2009-2017), was a board member of Sport Australia Hall of Fame up to his death and past Commodore at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, where he sailed … Couta boats.

Outside of sailing, business and sporting associates and friends stretched well beyond to AFL (of course) and athletes from swimming to rowing, hockey, netball, winter Olympic sports and more.

Plymo was a rare find. A hard-working businessman, he had a great mind, was a lateral thinker, problem solver, supporter, doer go-getter, who used his considerable influence to benefit sailing and other sports. On the flip side he was all heart, the staunch friend, entertainer, humorous to a fault, loquacious by nature. Everyone wore the brunt of both sides, insults and all, no holds barred, could poke fun at himself and was respected by all.

He knew his time was up – just couldn’t give up the ‘bungers’ – and lung cancer came calling. Passionate about life, he continued to live it with zest, right to the end. I last saw him in person at the Festival of Sails in Geelong last year. Despite his obvious illness, he’d been racing and was bagging out the opposition – loudly. Telling me what they didn’t know about sailing and that what they did know didn’t amount to much, followed by that laugh.

A short serious note followed when he told me he didn’t know how much time he had left and to make sure I said nice things about him when he departed. ‘You idiots won’t know what to do without me. (Picture the grin).

Small in stature, but larger than life, Plymo was loved by all of us. He was respected by all who crossed his path, including, “You ordinary people,” as he sometimes referred to us.

Plymo grew up in Melbourne where he became heavily involved in AFL and sailing, the latter out of Royal Brighton Yacht Club. He is a former world Etchells champion and scored his fair share of wins across other classes, such as in the Sydney 38s. He also raced offshore, including the Sydney Hobart, as Tony Cable recalled: “We sailed together on Taurus in the 1974 Hobart some 50 years ago.” His last Hobart was in 2006 with Grant Wharington on Skandia.

However, one of Plymo’s greatest sailing achievements was off the water. During his time with Australian Sailing (ex-Yachting Australia), he developed the ‘Gold Medal’ plan for the Olympics on the back of our disastrous results at the Athens Games.

The plan bore fruit in 2012 and continued onto to and including the Rio Games in 2016 when sailing won medals aplenty across the classes.

Plymo was hilarious. At a sailing event 40 odd years ago, he accosted me in a loud voice: “I know you. But what’s your name girly?” We’ve been friends since.

A selection of friends and business associates say it best, as below. 

Leigh Clifford: “A great warrior and a great Australian.”

Damien King on the 2009 Etchells Worlds: “Somehow we ended up second overall. We chatted on the dock with Plymo after and I recall saying, ‘I cannot believe we almost won’. He said, ‘You fellas did win, you IDIOT. I’ve invented a new division for the Barry (name of King’s boat) – the Corinthian division (for non-professionals) – so get your families on the line, I’ve got a table for them front row centre’.

“For me, this was classic Andrew, always thinking of ways to support his mates and the sport of sailing that he loved so very much. We won the trophy again the next year and it still stands as one of the most sought-after trophies at the Etchells Worlds.

“Andrew was the MC for the presentation. His name on the invitation was enough to ensure everyone was there. Hundreds of people attended. I couldn’t have loved this fella more. He was a best mate, a worldly advisor, who always made time for me. We had so many hilarious conversations, it was always the highlight of my week. Like the rest of us, I will really miss him.”

Damien King again: “Exhibition AFL game in London, apparently no coach in attendance. Half time they are down. Andrew comes out and says, ‘I really don’t know anything about coaching, but what I do know is I’ve got this black Amex card (Andrew throws it down on the ground) and if you win, we can all smash it together. So go out there and do your very best (another of his regular sayings) and we can have a massive night together’. From there, they turned the game around and won substantially. The Amex card was subsequently smashed…”

Moose: “I will miss your cutting comments on the opposition’s sailing prowess or lack thereof, on the rail (of the boat). The dinners at Sorrento where you held court with your exploits and other stories. And most of all, your friendship.”

Garry Linacre: “What a man. Mate, able to teach, share, coach, laugh, cry. I was lucky to get my first sailing lessons from Andrew in 1958. He was three years ahead of me at Brighton Grammar. The stories are too many to cover here. Gybe on the lifts and tack on the headers, my great mate.”

Rowena Chapman: “Andrew, the one and only.”

Campbell Rose: “A great man in every possible way one could imagine. Plymo’s contribution to sailing is unsurpassed.”

Ian Brown: “Plymo, in Olympic Sailing development, he was one of a very few people who wanted to know about the past and use it to make a better future. I remember he and John Coates were the only ones to consult after the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympics (Sailing Competition) and then the failure of the team at the next Games in Athens. He implemented some critical aspects to great success thereafter.”

Davo: “We had some great racing in Etchells with no quarter given on either side, but always with good humour. As president of Yachting Australia, he worked so hard to further sailing’s interests. He was a mover and shaker in the Olympic movement and held the Sports Commission well onside. They respected him because he made promises, that with help, sailing could deliver big time and it did because of his foresight. He could work the room and have everyone in stitches while getting what he wanted. Plymo, you’ve earned a rest.”

Jeremy Lewis: “What a fantastic bloke. So many laughs, never a dull moment – and don’t forget one of his lines – ‘I don’t do ropes’.

Moose: “That goes with, ‘That idiot couldn’t trim a hedge’.”

James Tompkins: “And, ‘Carbon sports are the only sports’.”

Barry Fairley remembers my personal favourite: “I’m in awe of myself.”

Wharo: “He had the unique gift of insulting people but at the same time have them laughing at themselves.”

Squark: (In relation to attached photo of Plymo with Tom Slingsby sent to Squark) – “Stop annoying me. I’m hanging out with real sailors.”

Tom Slingsby: “Ahhh, He was one of a kind. Amazing man.”

Andrew Fraser: “An irascible, brilliant, naughty, devilish sense of humour that cloaked the essence of a gentleman. Wise, kind, resolved to do what was right by, and good for, people.

“At the Sports Commission it was suddenly realised that the newly constituted Finance Audit & Risk Committee might be better to have its name re-ordered, but the Admiral would have none of that. He went on to be a fine Chairman of that committee and insisted mostly on only referring to it by its acronym (FARC) with a wink and that staccato infectious laugh.”

Liz: “His steering of FARC was as impressive as he was funny. So many funny dinners in Canberra around ASC meetings. Lecturing me about the superiority of sailing over netball (not a lot of crossover to be fair). The rare ability to make you laugh and make a highly salient point in one sentence. The Admiral will be missed.”

Philip Edwards: “AP, our last Sealord.”

Dave Hendy: “Very sad our old mate has left us. He will be missed by all. The Admiral could light up a room, whether he was talking to 2 or 200 people.”

***********

Our sympathies go to Andrew’s wife Kim and daughters Amanda and Katrina.

Andrew Plympton’s funeral will be held on Wednesday, 3 April, 2024 at 2pm at St Andrews in Brighton, Victoria, where Andrew and Kim were married. Capacity is 500 people.

A Wake at Sandringham Yacht Club will follow. “The Wake will be a huge celebration of a remarkable man’s life,” said John Bertrand.

Di Pearson

*Apologies, I do not have these photos in higher res

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