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Robert Ogilvie

This page on Rob Ogilvie, is based on an interview with Rob Ogilvie by Julie Hodder of Middle Harbour Yacht Club. Rob lent us his extensive scrapbooks which has enabled us to preserve another piece of valuable yachting history.

Rob is certainly an interesting character and a yachting legend. He has many an interesting yarn to tell. Below is his history, however we also asked him:

1. Is there any one time in all your sailing adventures that was really frightening? 

One of the most frighting moments in my life happened while sailing in the World Half Ton Cup Regatta in 1974  on the Bay of Biscay during the last race which was a 200 hundred miler. We'd just rounded the most northerly mark, it was just dawn with gale force winds and  the rain was pelting down. We needed a third reef in the main. Rob Venables and I were the only 2 on watch so it was my duty to attach the reef line. This meant I had to stand on the boom, lean on  the sail and attempt to thread the line through the eyelet. The sail split in half, and I fell into the stormy waters of the Bay. I yelled "throw me a rope" - in those days no one wore life jackets. Anyway the yacht had sailed too far away. The next thing I saw was the life ring and drogue go flying by above the water at the speed of the wind eventually landing so that I had swim and surf furiously to get to its location. Somehow the yacht returned for me, and I was  gratefully  hauled aboard. We withdrew like the rest of the large fleet, except for the 9 that finished the course.

Having limited navigation instruments being a Compass RDF and Charts, we  headed for the nearest land which was an island called the Il d'Yeu. We moored alongside the port in the centre of town at high tide [20ft] and I was  sent to find a cafe that served steak and beer. Luckily the first one I tried was owned by an expat Aussie. We were treated to the best of the best. It took us all night to sail back to La Rochelle and the safety of the marina.

 

2. What has been your proudest achievement on water and at MHYC?

I remember a very proud  day in my sailing career whilst riding in a motorcade to the Official Americas Cup Reception in 1970 atop the back seat of a classic sports car as a crew member of Gretel 2 and waving to the cheering crowd that lined the streets of Newport Town.

I also remember a sublime moment at MHYC during the Seniors Luncheon in 2013 receiving my 40 year badge from you (Julie) whilst sitting next  to my former Americas Cup Skipper Gordon Ingate who was the guest speaker on the day.

3.  What has been one of your most memorable/amusing moments ?

My memories of amusing times would always be cruising aboard Plum Crazy and Highland Ghost swapping old sea dog yarns with Tig Thomas about our exploits and adventures from days gone by whilst sipping on a few tasty reds. They were some of the best days of my sailing life.

4.  What is one sailing adventure you have not done but would love to do?

Sadly I never had the opportunity to sail in the Admiral's Cup due to my 12 metre commitments , although I did assist the Apollo 2 campaign during trial races prior to her going overseas to compete with the Australian Team.

In the Beginning

II was introduced to sailing by my father, Thomas (Bon) Olgivie, at the age of 12 as a Cadet Member of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club in 1956, the year of the Olympic Games in Melbourne. My father was secretary of the Club for 20 years until 1966, until we moved to Sydney, so he take up a new role as Secretary of Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club at Pittwater.

My first sailboat was a 12 ft Cadet Dinghy called "Thermopalae" which was gaffed rigged and made of maple. After relative success, I graduated to a newly built dinghy called "Courageous" made from Cedar being lighter and quicker. In 1962, I was selected Captain of the Victorian state Stonehaven Cup Team that competed at the Nationals in Perth.

After leaving the dinghy class at 19, I sailed in Dragons, many of which were purchased from overseas entries from the Olympic Games in 1956.

1967 Vim

Vim Crew: Martin Visser (helm), Dave Kellett, Jerry Gannet, Billy Wood, Rob Sterling, Peter Nicholson, Rob Ogilvie, Chris Freer

After moving to Sydney, I was invited to try out on the crew of the 12 metre yacht "Vim" (purchased from America for trial horse) which was being sailed by Gordon Ingate as trial horse for the revamped "Gretel". Unfortunately a newly built "Dame Pattie" was faster than "Gretel", so Sir Frank Packer decided not to continue the contest so leaving "Dame Pattie" as the challenger for the 1967 America's Cup.

Articles and Pictures

Yachtsmen to sail in Gretel

The names at people to be invited to sail in Gretel as crew for the next eight or nine weeks were announced yesterday.

This period, beginning next Saturday and Sunday will lead up to the start of the warm-up trials between Gretel and the Victorian boat Dame Pattie. to be held off the Heads in January, 1967.

The crew to be invited to man Gretel are:

Archie Robertson (Helmsman)

Tryg Halvorsen, Joe Pearce, Colin Ryrie, Magnus Halvorsen, Jim Hardy, Trevor Gowland, Brian Northam, Bruce Anderson, N. Hyett, Barry Russel, P. Salmon and Colin Betts

This crew could be subject to variations from time to time but, in the main. it would be undisturbed and would probably be the crew that would sail Gretel for the warming up trials.

Vim crew

It was also announced that the following yachtsmen would be invited to sail in Vim, skippered alternate weekends by Eric Strain and Gordon Ingate.

Eric Strain, Gordon Ingate, Ken Beashel, F McNulty, Doug Patterson, Andy Thane, Rob Ogilvie, Peter Kershaw, J Gannon, Graham Newland and Mick York.

The chairman of the Gretel syndicate (Sir Frank Packer) said last night that from observations so far it was clear that the Victorian contender. Dame Pattie was sailing extremely well and would provide formidable opposition for the trials.

Essential

It was essential to settle on a crew for the early trials, which would be closely integrated and which thoroughly understood the handling of Gretel.

If Gretel was taken to America, it was anticipated that the total squad would be 17 or18 yachtmen.

Yachtsmen to sail in Gretel - Vim crew included MHYC members Graham Newland and Robert Ogilvie
We've made it at last
These Yachtsmen keep Gretel on - Vim's crew unsung heroes of trials the Hop
Gretel
Gretel (KA1) and Vim in foreground, formerly US15
Vim Crew - click to see names
New Gretel Sails

1970 America's Cup

In 1968, I was invited by Martin Visser to trial for crew  selection against Jim Hardy's crew to compete in the 1970 America's Cup Challenge. We sailed every weekend and holidays switching between "Vim" and "Gretel", during which time" Gretel II" was being built. After a number of untold short races off Sydney my name was eventually announced by Sir Frank as a member of "Gretel II" team to challenge for the America's Cup at Newport Rhode Island.

Crew at naming of Gretel II are: D Greenway, R Prescot, C Free, J Bertrand, Rob Ogilvie, J Freedman, William (Bill) Fesq, R Lawson, B Russell, P Salmon, Martin Visser and Jim Hardy.

To view more on Rob's album visit Americas Cup 1970

Naming of Gretel II - click to view crew names
Gretel II Crew in USA

1974 Half Ton Championships

After returning from overseas, I was invited by Peter Cole to sail on his new East Coast 31 called "Shenandoah", a Half ton level rating class design. In 1974 we won the National Championships hosted by the CYCA which gained us the right to represent Australia and the World Championships in La Rochelle, France.

Winner of Australian National Championships was Shenandoah, designed by Peter Cole. 

Peter Cole (Skipper), David Kilponen (Navigator), Rob Ogilvie (Trimmer), B. Stannard (Mast), Rob Venerable (Forehand).

Shenandoah, Designed by Peter Cole
1974 Level Rating Results

World Half Ton Cup La Rochelle, 1974 France

Boat: Creizic (Shenandoah). Creizic came 19th out of 48 boats.

D. Kilponen (Skipper/ Navigator), Tig Gilbert Thomas (Helmsman), Rob Ogilvie (Trimmer), Peter Shipway (Mast/Trimmer), Rob Venerable (Forehand)

La Rochelle Harbour and the Towers
Pornic: Home of Creizic (Shenandoah)
Article about World Half Ton Cup in Rochelle
La Rochelle Yacht Harbour Inside the Towers
La Rochelle Marina
Top Crew for Half Ton Cup: Seaspray
La Rochelle

1974/75 Plum Crazy

Later in 1974, I sailed with Tig Gilbert Thomas on Plum Crazy. We were successful in the State Titles held by RSYS, winning the Dunhill Trophy in December.

In 1975, I again joined the crew of "Plum Crazy" to sail in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 1975. We covered the distance in 4d 1hr 18m 1s to set a race record for 9.5m yacht that lasted 27 years. After Hobart, Plum was sailed to Melbourne for the Nationals in Port Phillip Bay. The pace had moved on. She was the oldest Half Tonner there and we finished sixth overall.

Dunhill Half Ton Series 1974 State Championship
Dunhill Half Ton Series 1974 State Championship
Dunhill Half Ton Series 1974 State Championship: Plum Crazy
Dunhill Half Ton Series 1974 State Championship
1977 Half Ton Regatta Australia

1975 Congressional Cup

Sailed off Long Island Beach California

Hardy to Lead Crew for US Event
Cup plans Frustrated: Boating

1975 Level Rating Regatta

1975 Level Rating Regatta

First: Providence - Tom Stephens (Vic) 111 1/2 points

Second: Shenandoah - Peter Cole 111 points

Third: Plum Crazy - Tig Thomas 108 points

Shenandoah Crew: Peter Cole (Skipper/Helmsman), David Kilponen (Navigator), Rob Ogilvie (Trimmer), Peter Shipway (Mast), Rob Venables (Forehand)

Note: Providence went on to win the World Championships sailed off Chicago (USA).

Coles Yacht Sails to Acclaim
Cole Still Half Ton Leader

1977 Americas Cup

In 1976, Gordon Ingate and Syndicate launched a vastly modified "Gretel II" and set about selecting a crew to campaign the yacht at Newport Rhode Island for the America's Cup in 1977. The crew was selected by process of elimination from the many aspiring applicants that tried out. Fortunately, I was one of the successful candidates selected for the challenge.

To view more on Rob's album visit Americas Cup 1977

Gretel II off Heads in 1977
Gordon Ingate

1978 White Pointer

In 1978, I joined the crew of the Middle Harbour Yacht One Tonner "White Pointer" winning our fair share of ocean races in the CYCA Long Offshore Races (LOPS) Poinstcore and competed in three Hobarts and many Coffs Harbour and Mooloolaba events..

Other Yachts

Other yachts I have sailed aboard over many years include:

* Sailing with John Prior on "Priority II", competing in many Inshore events and winning a Club Championship in the JOG Division.

Sailed in the early 1980's on the Davidson Quarter Tonner "Seaflyer" - we won the Sunshine Coast Offshore Regatta (SCOR) and beating maxi Apollo on handicap in all 5 races, collecting 5 bottles of Bundy Rum as a side bet.

In 1986, I sailed on Apollo Batteries and we were first in division in the inaugural Sydney to Southport race on corrected time.

Competing in the Lord Howe Island Race aboard Ruff n Tumble with Lindsay Rose.

* Sailing on the Davidson 38 "Schezwan" as well as in a number of classes such as the 505 dinghy, Endeavour 26, Yachting World Diamond, Tempest and the Adams 10s.

* Sailed on Vengeance in 1982 Hobart - 3rd on Line Honours.

* Sailed on Shogun to Hobart in 1979, finishing first in the 2 Ton Cup Division in the Southern Cross Cup Year.

Cruising History

In between racing, I have enjoyed a number of cruising adventures.

In 2005/6 I sailed aboard "Quest of Sydney", a 26ft Harrison Butler design purchased by Sheelagh's brother John Taylor from John (Steamer) Stanley. We cruised the East Coast calling into many Ports on the way finally arriving at Yeppoon.

* In 2006 Tig Thomas purchased back "Plum Crazy" and I joined the MHYC Cruising Division. (In between times he had a Sonata 26 that we competed in the JOG Division races and Point Scores).

In 2009 we hand sailed Plum to the Wooden Boat Festival and back from Hobart. I was awarded the Crew Member of the Year Trophy by the Cruising Division for participating in that voyage.

* After selling Plum to Steve White, Tig purchased a Carter 38 named "Highland Ghost" which was moored at Geelong in Victoria, so we sailed her from Corio Bay to Sydney with a stopover in Eden.

* I sailed aboard the yacht "Zingaro II" and cruised her North as far as Gladstone. After the return sail to Sydney, we entered her for the 2017 Wooden Boat Festival which required another trip down the coast to Hobart.

Volunteer

Volunteering at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club

In the late 80's and early 90's, during the Golden Jubilee period with Keith Tierney as Commodore, I was a member of the Club's General Committee.

After my sailing career ended, I joined MHYC's Race Management Team, headed by John Hurley. Since then I have been a volunteer for over a decade being involved in both Inshore and Offshore racing which includes many Hobart starts aboard the Hugh George.

Recently I was awarded the MHYC Ray Cooper Perpetual Shield for volunteer services to the wellbeing of the Club.

In Summary

My sailing career has spanned over 65 years and I've achieved a great deal representing Australia three times and winning memorial ocean racing events. I have made long standing friendships and enjoyed the après sailing post-mortems at the bar.

Finally, it has been a pleasure and privilege to be involved with this great sport of yacht racing and proud to be a member of Middle Harbour Yacht Club for 48 years. None of this would have been achievable with the love and support of my parents, Sheelagh and daughters, Samantha, Kerina and Felicity.

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