Deceased , Modern

Robert I.

Billingham

1957 - 2014

Bob Billingham was an Olympic medalist and America’s Cup winner known mainly for his contribution to the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team. His most notable achievements on the water are a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in the Soling Class and winning the America’s Cup in 1992 as a member of America3.

In the mid-1990s, Bob transitioned into the management side of yacht racing and managed the AmericaOne challenge to the Louis Vuitton Finals in Auckland in 2000.

Bob then brought his considerable effectiveness to the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team once again, but this time in the form of a board member and advisor. He was a multi-quad member of the Olympic Sailing Committee (OSC). Bob was a tactician who brought to the OSC a competitive fire forged by his experiences with America’s Cup winner America3and challenger AmericaOne. Bob recruited the financial support of the AmericaOne Foundation which has contributed significantly to the team over the past decade. Bob’s innovative approach was responsible for numerous new ideas, including compensation for the Managing Director of the USOSC, deployment of a comprehensive weather study including weather buoys at Olympic venues, and a shed at Weymouth, England (London Olympics) for the USOS Team to be able to store their equipment between training sessions, to name a few.

As the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider evolved the last few quads –developing a commercial program and upping the financial support of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes –Bob provided an influential voice during a time of great organizational change. But his best moments centered on developing advantages at the Olympic Games venues. Even while fully dedicated to the most recent America’s Cup, Bob’s influence on Games projects carried well into the current quad. As recently as January 2014, he was advising on Rio-based initiatives with his usual competitive focus. The Olympic and Paralympic teams that represented the U.S. in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 had the benefit of Bob’s strategic guidance. 

Around his home club, St. Francis Yacht Club, he was the consummate fundraiser for youth sailing.  As auctioneer with Russ Silvestri, Johnny Mosely and National Sailing Hall of Famer Paul Cayard, Bob was a pro at getting the crowd pumped up and opening their wallets for youth sailing. With his efforts, the St. Francis Foundation annual fundraiser regularly brought in $250,000. Bob gave tirelessly of his time to the Treasure Island Sailing Center which is a public sailing venue that gives inner city kids from San Francisco and Oakland the chance to go sailing for the first time. Bob was not only a supporter, a sailor and a volunteer, he was an innovator in everything he did.

 

Anecdote

Dean Brenner OSC Chairman 2005-2012 recalls London Olympics 2012: 

“Bob Billingham was many things in the eyes of many people: an Olympic medalist and a champion sailor, a world-class operations manager, a major player on multiple levels in the America’s Cup, and a tireless volunteer. But those are just the résumé items. It was the human interactions, the little things that gave Bob texture and made him who and what he was. In the spring of 2007, Bob and a group of his colleagues wanted to make a big contribution to Olympic Sailing. So Bob and I made our first trip to Weymouth, England, 5+ years before the 2012 Games, to begin scouting out locations for a team base. We spent days skulking around Weymouth, keeping a low profile. Bob was in full ‘America’s Cup disinformation’ mode. He didn’t want anyone to figure out who we were and what we were doing (as if it mattered … but it was fun watching him operate!). Fast-forward to the 2012 Games, and Bob’s vision was reality. ‘Camp Billingham,’ as we named it, was the home for our teams for multiple years of training and racing. That project was Bob at his creative best.”

 

Accomplishments and Honors

  • Multi Quad Member of the Olympic Sailing Committee
  • 2000 Team Manager AmericaOneChallenge
  • 1992 Won the America’s Cup onboard America3
  • 1988 Olympic Silver Medal, Soling Class

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