Tributes have poured in from around the sailing world in memory of Brightlingsea-born sailor and writer Bob Fisher, who died at home in Lymington on January 25. He was 85 and had been suffering from cancer.
"It is with such sadness that Dee, Alice and Carolyne have to convey the passing of our fantastic, unique and extraordinary husband and father Bob," wrote his daughter, Alice Davies on Facebook. "He lived his whole life to the full and shall leave the fondest of memories not only as a husband and father, as a friend to all the sailing community in the UK, but to the sailing community worldwide."
Sir Ben Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medallist and currently helming the British challenger for the America's Cup in New Zealand, said Bob was "the doyen of yachting correspondents and a very good yachtsman in his own right. Wherever you went in the world Bob knew everyone and had so much experience across the board of yacht racing, a real character. He was just a lovely guy and our thoughts are with his family. Sail on Bob, your memory will live on."
Round-the-world yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston tweeted: "...a great friend, a great character and a great loss. He never lost his love of our sport. His knowledge of the history of the America's Cup was a universally-accepted reliable source."
Though he trained as a dentist, Bob became one of the best-known writers and commentators on the sport of sailing. He was sailing correspondent for the Guardian and Observer for over 50 years, wrote 30 books, had countless articles published in yachting magazines around the world, and added his wit and wisdom to many radio and TV broadcasts.
He was also technical adviser to the 1980's BBC series Howard's Way and coached the cast in sailing techniques. Based around a south coast boatyard, it was Bob who came up with the idea of the storyline that saw the yard develop a new 45ft yacht, Barracuda. A real Barracuda, which Bob helped to design, was built for the programme and remained in his possession for years, covering thousands of cruising miles and winning many races – including the two-man Round Britain and Ireland in 1989 with Knox-Johnston.
Unlike many pundits, Bob had the knowledge and experience to back up his writing. Having learned to sail in Brightlingsea One Designs, the Brightlingsea Sailing Club member won the Hornet dinghy world championship in 1958 crewing for former town dentist John Partridge, repeating the performance in 1970 with Colin McKenzie – by which time he'd added four Hornet national championship wins and a Fireball dinghy world championship to his tally. He was also instrumental in ensuring that the Tornado catamaran was chosen as the first Olympic multihull after winning the International Yacht Racing Union trials with his friend Reg White, who would go on to take Olympic gold in the class with John Osborn in 1976.
It was sailing catamarans that set Bob on the path to becoming known as "Mr America's Cup". The prize for winning the Little America's Cup competition in the then radical C-Class catamaran in 1967 was an all-expenses paid trip to Newport, Rhode Island, to watch the America's Cup proper. It led to a life-long passion for the competition and he covered every subsequent event as a journalist – and was only prevented by illness from attending the current Cup matches in Auckland.
His definitive two-volume history of the America's Cup, An Absorbing Interest, took 15 years to write and a third volume is scheduled for publication later this year. It was Bob's greatest hope to see Britain win back the trophy that it lost in 1851 and he'd been keenly following the progress of the INEOS Team UK challenge in Auckland. After winning the final race that saw the British team look almost certain to challenge the current Cup holder, New Zealand, last Saturday, skipper Ainslie called Bob's wife Dee and dedicated the victory to Bob.
In a statement, the America's Cup organisers said: "Sailing and the America’s Cup has lost a true gentleman of the sport. An encyclopedia of sailing knowledge and history, Bob Fisher and his writing will last for generations to come."
Bob maintained his connections with Brightlingsea and was hugely influential in fostering the partnership between Brightlingsea Sailing Club and the Sir Thomas Lipton Foundation, of which he was a trustee, and helped to get the club involved with the Buoyed Up Scheme that brings sailing to disadvantaged children.
Bob had been a Freeman of Brightlingsea for 60 years. Besides his wife and two daughters, Bob leaves three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.