Tony Bullimore: Sailor, showman, campaigner
Tony Bullimore, who has died at the age of 79, was not your ordinary sailor, writes Barry Pickthall. Brought up in Southend on Sea, Essex, he left school at 14 barely able to read and write but went on to make a huge success of his life as a nightclub owner, trader, showman and sailor.
In 1997, he made global headlines when rescued by the Royal Australian Navy deep in the Southern Ocean after his Vendée Globe yacht Exide Challenger lost its keel and capsized in a storm. Bullimore survived the freezing conditions inside the upturned hull for more than four days, nibbling at a bar of chocolate found in the pocket of his dry suit. Hope far outweighed the probability of finding Bullimore alive, and none were more surprised than Petty Officer Peter Wicker whose knocking on the hull drew Bullimore’s shouted response. ‘I’m here…i’m here… I’m coming out!’ A touch of frostbite in his feet and the loss of a finger were his only injuries.
A self-taught sailor, Tony caught the bug after sailing aboard a friend’s trimaran. He bought Derek Kelsall’s 42ft trimaran Toria, which he renamed
Gancia Girl, and entered the 1974 two-man Round Britain race with his friend Arthur Ellis, finishing 32nd.
His next exploit was the 1976
Observer Singlehanded transatlantic, which ended with a kitchen fire and Bullimore being rescued by a passing ship. The 1978 Round Britain Race saw him placed 21st in the 35ft trimaran
Run Around, crewed by Hardy Cassen.
But it was his partnership with designer Nigel Irens where Bullimore really saw success, finishing first in class in the 1982 Round Britain Race in the 40ft Irens-designed trimaran IT82. He also gained a third place in class in the 1984 OSTAR in the same boat, renamed Spirit of Birmingham. His greatest success came in the 1985 Round Britain Race, when he and Irens won outright in the 60ft trimaran Apricot. They also won their class in the 1985 Round Europe Race.
Recalling Tony’s strength of character, Irens said: ‘We would not have finished either of those Round Britain races without Tony’s tenacity. In both events he saved the day by climbing the mast in really bad weather to replace halyards. Most of us would have thrown in the towel, but not him. He simply gritted his teeth and got the job done.’
Tony Bullimore is survived by his West Indian wife Lalal. They married in 1965 and together, made an impact on improving cultural relations in the Bristol area. Tony Bullimore 15 January 1939 – 30 July 2018.
Ahead of winning third place in class in the 1984 OSTAR Tony Bullimore was a self-taught sailor
Tony worked tirelessly to improve race relations