In Memoriam: Robert Oatley

SYDNEY (LOG NEWS SERVICE) — Billionaire Australian winemaker, yachtsman and resort owner Robert “Bob” Oatley died at his home in Sydney Jan. 10. He was 87. Australian news sources reported he had been in ill health for some time.

The prominent Australian was a legend in yachting circles for his series of super maxi yachts all named Wild Oats, which dominated ocean racing in Australia for years, and for his support of Team Australia in its challenge for the 35th Americas Cup in 2017.

On behalf of the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, Oatley presented the club’s bid to be the Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup to Oracle Team USA in San Francisco shortly after Oracle had won the last race against New Zealand to retain the America’s Cup in 2013. 

In 2014 — unable to negotiate satisfactory financial terms with Oracle, the defending team owned by fellow billionaire Larry Ellison — Oatley decided not to proceed with the challenge for the 35th America’s Cup. 

Oatley began his working life as a 15-year-old office boy without qualifications and went on to make a fortune estimated at $1 billion as an exporter of coffee beans, a winegrower and the owner of resorts on Hamilton Island in Queensland, 551 miles north of Brisbane including the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, which officially opened in December of 2009.

His success allowed him to indulge a passion for sailing, which began in small sailboats before he bought the 100-foot Wild Oats in 2005.

Oatley became a generous patron of sailing, supporting the Australian Olympic sailing team.

In 2014 Oatley was named an Officer of the Order of Australia “for distinguished service to the Australian wine and tourism industries, to yacht racing, and to the community as a supporter of medical research and visual arts organizations.”

Last November Yachting Australia honored Oatley with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to sailing. 

His wife, Valerie, and three children Sandy, Ian and Ros survive Oatley.

—A report from The Associated Press was used in this story. 

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