Whit­sun­days pays trib­ute to Robert Oat­ley AO

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

ROBERT Oat­ley AO was many things to many peo­ple, but par­tic­u­larly in the Whit­sun­days he was a boss, a men­tor and a friend.

His death on Sun­day morn­ing fol­low­ing a pro­tracted ill­ness was met with shock from around the re­gion, for al­though the 87-year-old was ap­proach­ing his “twi­light” years, no-one could re­ally com­pre­hend that he had gone.

Glenn Bourke, CEO of the Oat­ley-owned Hamil­ton Is­land, looked back with fond­ness on a re­la­tion­ship that spanned al­most 30 years.

It was thanks to Mr Oat­ley’s pa­tron­age that Mr Bourke, al­ready a com­pe­tent sailor, was able to com­pete in­ter­na­tion­ally cul­mi­nat­ing in the Olympics of 1992.

“And then we be­came friends and that friend­ship lasted to this day,” Mr Bourke said.

Mr Bourke re­mem­bers the mo­ment Mr Oat­ley ap­proached him about tak­ing the reins at Hamil­ton Is­land.

“He said, ‘look, we have this is­land, we need a rep­re­sen­ta­tive we can trust to help us run it – we have big plans and am­bi­tions – would you be a part of that’,” he said.

“And what an in­cred­i­ble vi­sion he had.”

De­spite his many achieve­ments on the is­land, in the wine in­dus­try and in the world of sail­ing, Mr Bourke de­scribed “Bob” as a self­made mod­est man, who didn’t need ac­co­lades.

“He sold coffee and co­coa when ev­ery­one in Aus­tralia was drink­ing tea, he grew Rose­mount wines when peo­ple in Aus­tralia were drink­ing beer and the third stroke of ge­nius was Hamil­ton Is­land,” he said.

“He in­jected the en­ergy, the time, the cap­i­tal and the vi­sion to cre­ate some­thing sus­tain­able and now in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised.

“He was a vi­sion­ary, a won­der­ful phi­lan­thropist to Aus­tralian sailors and he made the largest con­tri­bu­tion to the best era Aus­tralian sail­ing has ever seen.” The owner of maxi yacht Wild Oats X and su­per-maxi Wild Oats XI, Bob Oat­ley and his skip­per Mark Richards were cer­tainly a force to be reck­oned with and in 2013 the Oat­leys even made a bid for the Amer­ica’s Cup.

Sail­ing au­thor and friend of more than 45 years, Rob Mun­dle, said, “Bob stood high among the most in­spir­ing men any­one could want to know: a self-made in­di­vid­ual who shared the good times with fam­ily and friends”.

In a state­ment re­leased on be­half of the Oat­leys, the fam­ily said they had been “touched by the many kind words and tributes that have al­ready been re­ceived from friends, col­leagues and the wider Aus­tralian com­mu­nity”.

Mr Oat­ley, the 34th most wealthy man in Aus­tralia ac­cord­ing to the 2015 BRW Rich List, bought Hamil­ton Is­land for a re­ported $200 mil­lion in 2003.

In Jan­uary 2014, he was ap­pointed an Of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Aus­tralia for his dis­tin­guished ser­vice to the Aus­tralian wine and tourism in­dus­tries, to the sport of yacht rac­ing and to the com­mu­nity, as a sup­porter of med­i­cal re­search and vis­ual arts or­gan­i­sa­tions – an ap­point­ment he de­scribed him­self as “ex­tremely hum­bled” by.

He is sur­vived by his wife Va­lerie, his three chil­dren, Sandy, Ian and Ros Oat­ley, seven grand­chil­dren, and eight great-grand­chil­dren.

Mr Bourke said he fully ex­pected the next gen­er­a­tion of Oat­leys to con­tinue their father’s vi­sion. “And while there is a sense of sad­ness here we know he lived his life to the fullest and that he changed many lives – and we thank him for that,” he said.

Wild Oats aboard his beloved yacht SAIL­ING ON: Bob Oat­ley XI.

By Sharon Small­wood GREATLY MISSED: Robert Oat­ley AO passed away on Sun­day morn­ing.

Photo Con­trib­uted

IS­LAND LIFE: Bob Oat­ley with his sons Sandy and Ian on Hamil­ton Is­land's One Tree Hill.

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