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Wild Oats XI owner and sailing patron Bob Oatley dead at 87

by Richard Gladwell & Rob Kothe on 11 Jan 2016
Bob Oatley congratulates Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards after the 2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours win Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex
The Patriarch of the Oatley family and one of Australia's most prominent sailing campaigners and backers, Bob Oatley has died after an illness at the age of 87.

Best known in sailing circles as the owner of Wild Oats XI, the outstanding supermaxi that won eight Rolex Sydney Hobart Races. The family is also owner of Hamilton Resort and Robert Oatley Vineyards.

A long time sailor, in 1993 Oatley commissioned the original Wild Oats, a state of the art kevlar 43 footer which won the 1994 Sydney Hobart with Roger Hickman on the helm and then again as Wild Rose in 2014.

In the early 2000’s he and his eldest son Sandy campaigned Another Dutchess , a Davidson 59 before breaking into the hard core racing scene with Wild Oats IX 60, the first of the Reichel Pugh canting keelers in 2002.

In 2003 Wild Oats IX and Colin O’Neill’s Davidson 59 Aftershock won the prestigious Admiral’s Cup and took that mighty trophy to Pittwater’s Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club where it remains today.

Then came the 66 footer Wild Oats X, then in 2005 with Wild Oats Xi. That 100-foot supermaxi Wild Oats XI taking line honours in the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race eight times, and doing so in record time in 2012.

Oatley was also the driving force behind the Team Australia challenge for the 35th America's Cup before withdrawing as a team and Challenger of Record in July 2014. He was also a significant force and funder of the Australian Sailing Team, which rose to be one of the most successful Olympic teams in the world under his patronage.

A fiercely proud Australian, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2014 for 'distinguished service to the Australian wine and tourism industries [and] to the sport of yacht racing'.

Robert Oatley started out in Papua New Guinea exporting coffee and cocoa in the 1950's and 60's before establishing the Rosemount Estates wine company in 1969, which went on to become the second largest selling Australian wine in the USA before it was sold in 2001.

A long time supporter of Hamilton Island Race Week, Oatley bought the Hamilton Island resort for $200 million in 2004 and had since spent some $350 million making it into one of the world's top island resorts.

He returned to winemaking in 2006 under Robert Oatley and Wild Oats brands.

Forbes magazine last year estimated his net worth to be $910 million, while he was listed at number 49 on last year's BRW Rich List, with an estimated wealth of $1 billion.

There were a lot of concerns about Oatley's deteriorating health in recent months, 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 a good luck charm by the crew. Sadly the boat retired damaged on the first night of the 2015 race.

Bob Oatley is survived by his wife Valerie and three children Sandy, Ian and Ros.

Sail-World and YachtsandYachting express their condolences to the Oatley family and friends at this sad time

For a profile on Bob Oatley, that appeared in 2007 click here

Bob Oatley - 2013 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race :

Bob Oatley - 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race :

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