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Farewell old friend.  Bob Fisher, aka The Fish crossed the bar today.  A wonderful sailor, raconteur, writer, author and instigator of too many wonderful shenanigans.  I will miss him deeply.

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I went on a writing rant over the Olympics in Brazil that the sewage infested waters harm our sport and the event should be moved. Fish wrote me (I didn't know him, or about him). He said he would go to WS and try to work his magic as he agreed it was not a good idea. He went, came back emailing me and said it was a done deal, it's not moving.
 
I got a press pass to the AC foiling cat show in Chicago and sat next to Fish (not knowing it was him) for two days. Kinda yanked his chain a few times. He left for lunch to meet with a friend, and the guys on the other side of me said, "Do you have any idea who that is along side of you that you're teasing?" Nope!
 
Fish comes back the next day, I move over and put my arm around him and let him know that "We're old friends." He's blinking his eyes and I remind him of my Olympic rant. Ah yes, good guy.
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I'm far too young to have known Bob Fisher (see, I won't even use his nickname of Fish). But, having grown up on the south coast of England, reading Yachts and Yachting and Yachting World, when I wasn't sailing Toppers, Wayfarers, Fireflies, 505's,  Merlin Rockets, Fireballs, and Lasers, blah blah, I knew, as we all did as kids, exactly who Fisher was and what he represented.  So, fair winds and following seas.  

It makes me think.  My dad used to know John Illingworth, so I have to think he might also have known Bob Fisher.  Got to call home tomorrow.

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There's another thread over on AC Anarchy, as Fish was the ultimate AC historian.  His massive multi-volume book "An Absorbing Interest" is the definitive work.

 

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Good Morning,

I sailed with Bob Fisher in the 1980 Agulhas Race, a tough 480 mile race off the notorious South African coast. I was the young rookie onboard the Lavranos designed 41 footer Nutcracker.

What a character he was. Bob turned the race into a laugh-a-minute for all of us and we finished a good 2nd overall.

5 years later I bumped into him in Lymington and was thrilled that he remembered me.

Sail on Bob!

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Sailing has lost one of its giants and I have lost one of my best friends.

When my wife called me this morning and told me the grave news I was physically upset and when I read what has been said above I had to paused before responding because I teared up again at the loss of a wonderful man and my thoughts go out to his widow Dee and to his children

When I started writing I approached Bob Fisher for advice and sent him an early effort. That led to a firm friendship over the years.

When we were in the UK many years ago to visit the Southampton Boat Show I mailed him and suggested coffee to be  met with ‘I don’t do coffees how about lunch – and come to the house’

Bob picked us up in Lymington and we spent a wonderful afternoon in the company of Bob & Dee and we met many more times when we happened to be in the same place at the same time, Auckland, Cowes, VOR, SailGP, you name it. He always had a little twinkle in his eyes like a naughty boy hidden inside a perfect gentleman for he surely was that. My wife used to call him ‘Uncle Bob’ and one could see he was always a little delighted by that.

He was no keyboard commander either with multiple world titles to his name along with a Little America’s Cup victory, an RORC Yacht of the Year title with Barracuda of Tarrant (a long time dream boat of mine). He used to call it his ‘Country Cottage’ and I clearly remember in one ‘Fish Eye’ article him saying they ‘had a lot of washing up at the Country Cottage’ while doing 22 knots across Christchurch Bay one weekend – clever writing as always. He was even Reg White’s crew on the Tornado when they destroyed the competition to win the berth for Olympic Catamaran. In fact the primary reason for me waiting (each fortnight originally) eagerly for Yachts & Yachting to come out was to see what Bob had written in his column.

I will be ever grateful for his advice when I started writing “tell it how you see it”; always get a second verification (if you can) and so on. He was my proposer when I joined ‘Yachting Journalist Association’ an organisation he served as Chairman for a number of years and a huge influence on me.

But it was the America’s Cup where Bob stood head and shoulders above any other writer where he was rightly known as “Mr America’s Cup”, an event where his passion was initially kindled by listening to old salts at the top of the Brightlingsea Hard as they regaled the stories of their times with Lipton or Sopwith. Him reference work on the history of the event “An Absorbing Interest” is truly a must read for any genuine fan of the Old Mug. He told me once his wife typed 2 million words of research notes for the work. Perhaps now the Koch Estate will release the material for the long awaited Volume 3.

There is one important element missing from Bob’s extensive C.V. and that is the long overdue (in my humble opinion) membership of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. This year the ‘voice’ of the America’s Cup, Peter Montgomery was inducted (and I am taking away nothing from PJ on this – he deserves to be there also ) so why do we not have the whole “Mister” in there too.

Attached is a pic of Bob enjoying one of his other pleasures. An ice cream sundae was always the ticket to round off a dinner together and also the cover of his greatest work.

Sail on Bob, the world – and certainly my world – is now a much poorer place to be.

Goodbye my hero, my mentor, my friend.

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I spent an afternoon in his company on a ferry watching the Stars and Stripes vs Kiwi Magic in Fremantle in 1986.
He was generous with his time to a couple of wide eyed youngsters. That was a great regatta where the sailors would still go out drinking after sailing.
This meant there was always plenty of fodder for the sailing writers.
I vividly recall enjoy a beer in one of the Freo pubs surrounded by sailors when Tom Blackaller drove past and suddenly realised that his crew were in the pub.
I thought he was going to explode. I recounted this scene with Fish and he predicted that this openness would end. He was correct.

Sail on Fish.

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This was the book that sold me on racing as a teenager. Before my Dad got it I just screwed around in our sailing program. After I read Mr. Fisher’s descriptions of the best races in the world I knew I had to be a proper sailor so I could participate in at least one of the great races. 
 

Fair winds

2FAE88DC-629D-47A3-9851-C9FEDBF88171.jpeg

36D3F126-9D3E-40E6-90A3-373CD3048B27.jpeg

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11 minutes ago, Sail4beer said:

This was the book that sold me on racing as a teenager. Before my Dad got it I just screwed around in our sailing program. After I read Mr. Fisher’s descriptions of the best races in the world I knew I had to be a proper sailor so I could participate in at least one of the great races. 
 

Fair winds

2FAE88DC-629D-47A3-9851-C9FEDBF88171.jpeg

 

It's a great book.  The cover pic is Brian Saffrey-Cooper's Dragon in Christchurch Bay in one of the short races for the 1983 Admiral's Cup.  The pic was taken about noon, would you believe, with some major wind about to arrive.

Fish had raced in most of those regattas, except I don't think he'd done a Transpac, which he regretted.  But he wrote from experience.  Racing a Whitbread maxi 2-handed round Britain with Robin Knox-Johnston was just out there.

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Spent an afternoon next to Bob Fisher sailing out past Point Loma on Gracie, a Doug Peterson daysailer with double trapezes. This was in 1980(?) and we sailed with Doug, John Reichel, and Kerry Geraghty (the builder). Bob was full of wit and questions  - down to the size of the cooler on the boat and whether it had sufficient capacity. The sport was lucky to have him as a voice and a spokesperson. 

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3 hours ago, Sail4beer said:

This was the book that sold me on racing as a teenager. Before my Dad got it I just screwed around in our sailing program. After I read Mr. Fisher’s descriptions of the best races in the world I knew I had to be a proper sailor so I could participate in at least one of the great races. 
 

Fair winds

2FAE88DC-629D-47A3-9851-C9FEDBF88171.jpeg

36D3F126-9D3E-40E6-90A3-373CD3048B27.jpeg

One of the best yachting books ever written. Have it on my coffee table most times.

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5 hours ago, Sail4beer said:

This was the book that sold me on racing as a teenager.

4 hours ago, P_Wop said:

It's a great book.  The cover pic is Brian Saffrey-Cooper's Dragon in Christchurch Bay in one of the short races for the 1983 Admiral's Cup. 

1 hour ago, doghouse said:

One of the best yachting books ever written. Have it on my coffee table most times.

'Great Yacht Races' was published in 1984 and is now a collector's item.

I originally thought it a pity he didn't update it as one volume, but quickly changed my mind. 

It was a snapshot in time of IOR in its heyday, which then began to quickly slide after that. Maybe he thought that too, hence the timing.

His next the "Greatest Race" the 'Official Story of the Whitebread Round-The-World Race 1985/1986' it too got that last race with the traditional IOR maxi format before the ketches arrived, that arguably was the beginning of the decline of that race too.

Hold on to them if you have them and pass them down.

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I raise a glass to Bob. I've sailed with him many times, I've drunk with him more times, I've laughed with him always, He's got me into trouble and taught me the true meaning of mischief. Take four letters from mischief and funnily it seems to spell Fish.

You will be missed but never forgotten!

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Bob was a long standing family friend from my Lymo' days and erstwhile fierce competitor in Barracuda of Tarrant for several seasons, so I have just been reminiscing with my dad (same generation), who reminded me of a proposed clause in Bob's will - "A sum of £X to pay for a large window to be installed in the wall of the UK Met Office, so they can look outside and see what's going on." I do hope he put that coda in, it would be churlish and lacking in grace for them to refuse, no?

Bob was always worth reading, as he had the respect of so many world class sailors, having walked among them, and thus an inside line which gave his insights depth and credence. He didn't magic fake stories and out of thin air or turn smoke into fire - until he had his facts 100% right and there was no other option. He understood that reputations mattered and that basically good people sometimes make bad errors of judgement - on more than one occasion giving some miscreant the opportunity to put right their misdeed (and some) in favour of naming and shaming to get some short-lived scoop.

 

 

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In the early '90s, I was in my mid 20s, I remember a Cowes Week ('90 or '91) when Barracuda of Tarrant was docked next to us (Aida - ex Promotion V).  After one race a number of us were socializing in Barracuda's cockpit and Bob was pouring the G&Ts.  I had been reading his stuff since childhood but it was the first time I met him.  I remember thinking it doesn't get much better than this - Bob Fisher pouring me a gin. 

A met him a handful of times subsequently and always enjoyed the encounters.  Sad news.

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1 hour ago, Muzza said:

In the early '90s, I was in my mid 20s, I remember a Cowes Week ('90 or '91) when Barracuda of Tarrant was docked next to us (Aida - ex Promotion V).  After one race a number of us were socializing in Barracuda's cockpit and Bob was pouring the G&Ts.  I had been reading his stuff since childhood but it was the first time I met him.  I remember thinking it doesn't get much better than this - Bob Fisher pouring me a gin. 

A met him a handful of times subsequently and always enjoyed the encounters.  Sad news.

Aida, that's a blast from the past!! I went to a couple of Barracuda parties as well around that time, hazy memories.

There was an Auscrew party where Bob was awarded the fuck-up prize for parking Barracuda on Bembridge ledge  (91 I think???).  Another epically messy evening.

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3 hours ago, mad said:

There was an Auscrew party where Bob was awarded the fuck-up prize for parking Barracuda on Bembridge ledge  (91 I think???).  Another epically messy evening.

The Bembridge Ledge incident was after the RORC Ouistreham race.  Barracuda had done really well, and I think had won her class.

I was race odfficering for that one, manning the finishing line boat, and when I finally came ashore the party was still in full swing.  Bob said they were leaving shortly, as they wanted to be back in Lym for breakfast, and did I want to come with them?  Looking at the hideously dissipated crew I said I'd take the ferry, thanks.

Anyway they managed to mistake Princessa buoy for the Ledge one, and with the keel up, ran straight onto the ledge at pretty low water.  As they were pulling down sails, and doing damage assessment they heard a knocking on the hull.  A Bembridge Coastguard had waded out across the rocks to see if they needed help.

The boat was fixed up, and we hit the Needles wreck later that season, so it was 88.  Local wags said that since Fish had hit both ends of the Isle of Wight he should claim the bit in the middle and be nominated King of the Wight.

That's when I took him to Scotland to sail Drum.  I remember handing over the helm to him at 0100 and on my way down the hatch said "Don't hit anything, Bob!"  A roar of laughter, and "No hope, we're in 600 feet of water!"  Twenty minutes later, BANG!

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3 hours ago, mad said:

There was an Auscrew party where Bob was awarded the fuck-up prize for parking Barracuda on Bembridge ledge  (91 I think???).  Another epically messy evening.

Correction.  It was 89 when Barracuda hit the ledge, so it would have been the 89 AC Auscrew party.  A disgustingly drunken event, as always, and as always hosted at Spencer Rigging in Cowes.  The only time they ever got the floor washed.

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50 minutes ago, P_Wop said:

That's when I took him to Scotland to sail Drum.  I remember handing over the helm to him at 0100 and on my way down the hatch said "Don't hit anything, Bob!"  A roar of laughter, and "No hope, we're in 600 feet of water!"  Twenty minutes later, BANG!

That could only happen to Fish.

I was aware of his amazing attack on one of HM's submarines but never thought to get the details. This despite sharing press boats, media centres, and of course bars, with him over the years. Would be great to get some first-hand recollections of how he earned Bob's Bolt, the locking pin from the sub's periscope.

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1 minute ago, KiwiJoker said:

That could only happen to Fish.

I was aware of his amazing attack on one of HM's submarines but never thought to get the details. This despite sharing press boats, media centres, and of course bars, with him over the years. Would be great to get some first-hand recollections of how he earned Bob's Bolt, the locking pin from the sub's periscope.

Bob Fisher after the presentation of ``Bob’s Bolt`` in 2011 photo copyright SW taken at  and featuring the  class

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RIP Fish, great sailor, great journalist and peerless raconteur. Will never, ever, forget the hilarious Commonwealth Table-Top Tap Dancing Championship in Hobart all those years ago.

We shall not see his like again...

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44 minutes ago, KiwiJoker said:

That could only happen to Fish.

I was aware of his amazing attack on one of HM's submarines but never thought to get the details. This despite sharing press boats, media centres, and of course bars, with him over the years. Would be great to get some first-hand recollections of how he earned Bob's Bolt, the locking pin from the sub's periscope.

OK, here you go.  The story's been told here several times over the years, but since I was one of the instigators I'd better write it up while I still have a memory.

Simon le Bon's Whitbread maxi Drum had been sold to Arnold Clark, a major car dealer in Glasgow.  He wanted to race the Western Isles regatta in 88, but since most of his crew had never seen a maxi, let alone been on one, I was approached to skipper the boat.  I'd done a lot of IOR maxi racing, including on Drum, and had done two transatlantic deliveries on the boat, so I knew it well.

After our Round the Island catastrophe on the Needles wreck with Barracuda, everyone on the South Coast was giving Bob heaps of grief, so I suggested he come to Scotland and help drive Drum for a breath of fresh air.

First night out, some distance off the Mull of Kintyre, we were sailing along quite happily with a medium #1 on starboard tack.  At about 0100 I handed over the helm to Bob and as above told him not to hit anything.

Anyway, 20 minutes later, Gavin McKinnon, our bowman, thought he heard something ahead of us, so went up the foredeck to take a peek round the luff of the jib.  There, 100 feet away and closing fast, was a series of vertical posts with a bow-wave, lit up in our bow nav lights.  Gavin came cantering back down the foredeck shouting at Bob "Up, up, up!"

Fish put the helm down and there was a major collision, with the offender ripping a great gouge in our forward topsides and mangling the stanchions before fetching up with a huge bang against our cap shrouds.  It then went puff puff past us into the darkness.  Bob later said it looked like a huge outboard motor sliding past.

All hands to damage control, pulling up floorboards to see if we were holed.  I went to the radio and did a pan-pan call, saying where were were, that there were 23 people aboard, and that we'd hit a submarine.  A very plummy English voice came on 16 and said "Drum, this is HMS Challenger.  There are no Royal Navy submarines operating in this area. Out."

I responded that if it wasn't one of his, it was one of someone else's, and he might like to know about it.  Anyway I had pieces of anechoic tile on the deck that he might find interesting.

At that point we heard from HMS Otus, a diesel-electric sub, saying that she was the one we'd hit.

Anyway, we motored back to Crinan, and had a visit from a RN Captain.  Were you carrying lights?  Yes, that's how we saw it.  Oh.  Were you making any electronic noise?  Yes, all sorts of electronics, including our B&G sonic speed transducer.  Oh.  Anything else?  Yes, our radar was running.  Oh.  Anything more?  Yes, we had our two cylinder diesel generator running.  It's still going.  Can you here the racket?  Oh.

Apparently the Navy was running a "perisher" course which is the final checkout for a new sub commander.  I think he didn't pass.

The RN never admitted fault, but did cough up about £50k for repairs to Drum.  Apparently the repair bill for the sub was 100 times that.  Water flooding into the control room, mangled periscope and snorkel, and an emergency surface.  She was fixed up, and later served in the Gulf War, before going for scrapping in Portsmouth.  She was rescued and is now a museum ship in Germany.

We made some special rugby shirts for all crew.  I still have mine.  I'll try to dig it out and post a pic.

Here endeth the lesson.

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8 minutes ago, P_Wop said:

Here endeth the lesson.

best get started on the book :)

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5 minutes ago, TwoLegged said:

Brilliant story, P_wop

BTW. HMS Challenger ended up in the hands of De Beers, as a diamond-hunting ship

Well, it was good that she was on hand.  Because if we'd sunk Otus there would have been immediate work for her!

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3 minutes ago, P_Wop said:

Well, it was good that she was on hand.  Because if we'd sunk Otus there would have been immediate work for her!

If Drum had sunk Otus, the value of IOR maxi yachts would have soared.  Cheapest sub-killing ship available

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17 hours ago, P_Wop said:

Correction.  It was 89 when Barracuda hit the ledge, so it would have been the 89 AC Auscrew party.  A disgustingly drunken event, as always, and as always hosted at Spencer Rigging in Cowes.  The only time they ever got the floor washed.

The loft upstairs may have been washed, but the stink of beer on the ground floor where it seeped through from upstairs was epic for a few days!!:lol:

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Just to finish up the Drum/Otus story, of course Fish was yachting journalist at the time for the Guardian and News of the World, both national newspapers in the UK.

Front page articles in both!  

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52 minutes ago, P_Wop said:

Just to finish up the Drum/Otus story, of course Fish was yachting journalist at the time for the Guardian and News of the World, both national newspapers in the UK.

Front page articles in both!  

To add to that, his articles in both papers asked the simple question as to why the Royal Navy wasn't "looking out of the window."

He was also disparaging about the British Met Office, and I believe put in his will a provision for £nnn to construct a large window in their building so the forecasters could look outside and see what was really happening.

Such a great man.

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21 hours ago, P_Wop said:

At that point we heard from HMS Otus, a diesel-electric sub, saying that she was the one we'd hit.

Anyway, we motored back to Crinan, and had a visit from a RN Captain.  Were you carrying lights?  Yes, that's how we saw it.  Oh.  Were you making any electronic noise?  Yes, all sorts of electronics, including our B&G sonic speed transducer.  Oh.  Anything else?  Yes, our radar was running.  Oh.  Anything more?  Yes, we had our two cylinder diesel generator running.  It's still going.  Can you here the racket?  Oh.

Apparently the Navy was running a "perisher" course which is the final checkout for a new sub commander.  I think he didn't pass.

The RN never admitted fault, but did cough up about £50k for repairs to Drum.  Apparently the repair bill for the sub was 100 times that.  Water flooding into the control room, mangled periscope and snorkel, and an emergency surface.  She was fixed up, and later served in the Gulf War, before going for scrapping in Portsmouth.  She was rescued and is now a museum ship in Germany.

We made some special rugby shirts for all crew.  I still have mine.  I'll try to dig it out and post a pic.

Here endeth the lesson.

Thanks.  Well told. Fish would have approved. Would love to see shirt pix.

I only became aware of the crash/bang years later. I was living in the States at the time and not paying much attention to newspapers. Hey it probably never made a ripple in the news cycle. I'm going to take the liberty of copying you very crisp account to the Fish thread in America's Cup Anarchy. Just wish I'd heard it at the dinner table from hisself over a few jugs of claret.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fellow journalist Richard Gladwell wrote up his tribute to Bob Fisher for Sail World

"Bob Fisher - the America's Cup loses its greatest chronicler"

Many fine pics and stories. One sample:

Quote

Bob had a life-long abhorrence of civil servants, entitled sailing bureaucracy, and general incompetence - forgetting, of course, that they all provided him with a rich seam of storylines. 

His usual routine was to read the offending parts of the email aloud, engaging those nearby to listen and agree totally with him, or if you felt like an argument, you could push back. After 10 minutes or so, the tempest would pass and he'd quieten down to usually write a great piece about a totally unrelated subject. You learned that reading and arguing the offending emails was just part of his daily warm-up routine. 

Occasionally these sessions would come to an abrupt end when some long-time friend, who he hadn't seen for ages, would pop their head around the corner of the media centre, and Bob would immediately transform into his usual very gregarious self.

 

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I read this thread earlier today and it was really heartwarming and made me feel grateful that I could share such rememberences by people who knew and cared about this man. I want to thank all who took the time to share what you loved about your friend. I plan to read his books as soon as possible. Why any boat is made without a cooler in the cockpit floor is head scratcher. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/26/2021 at 8:45 PM, doghouse said:

One of the best yachting books ever written. Have it on my coffee table most times.

Due to the positive reviews here, I ordered up a gently used copy on Amazon a couple weeks ago.

It sits proudly on my coffee table as I savor every paragraph.  The Admiral has no issue with this.

Thanks to all for the recommendation.

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