Tony Bul­limore: Sailor, show­man, cam­paigner

Yachting Monthly - - NEWS -

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

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