News World Famous British sailor Tony Bullimore dies

Famous British sailor Tony Bullimore dies

Tony Bullimore
British sailor Tony Bullimore was rescued during an around-the-world race in 1997. Photo: ABC
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British sailor and entrepreneur Tony Bullimore, who was dramatically rescued by the Australian navy from his upturned yacht in the Southern Ocean, has died at the age of 79.

The BBC and ITV both reported on Tuesday that he died after suffering from cancer.

Bullimore became world-famous after he survived for four days in the upturned hull of his boat when it capsized in the freezing waters of the Southern Ocean in 1997.

He had been taking part in the 1996 Vendee Globe single-handed around-the-world race in his boat, the Exide Challenger, and was 2200km off the coast of Australia.

The then 57-year-old sailor and former Royal Marine, nicknamed the British bulldog, was feared to have drowned.

On January 5 1997, both Bullimore and another competitor, Frenchman Thierry Dubois, sent radio distress beacons while navigating extremely cold and rough seas.

The Royal Australian Air Force was scrambled to drop life rafts, radios and emergency supplies until the pair could be rescued properly.

Dubois was thrown a life raft which he clung to until he was airlifted to safety.

But the situation became grave when organisers lost signal with Bullimore, whose weather-battered and upturned yacht had been spotted in the extremely cold Southern Ocean seemingly without him on board.

A frigate was sent to help, but it meant an anxious few days until it could get anywhere near the Challenger.

Then – a glimmer of hope.

A sonar buoy detected faint tapping noises inside Bullimore’s hull, but rescuers were unsure whether the sounds were made by the sailor or by the movement of loose rigging.

On January 9, Australian naval crews who managed to get near to Bullimore’s stricken yacht pounded against the vessel in the hope the Briton may be inside.
Moments later, a weary Bullimore emerged.

He had swum out from underneath the hull where he had been surviving, in a makeshift hammock inside the cabin, entombed by the freezing water gradually creeping closer to him, existing on meagre rations of chocolate and water.

Bullimore lost part of his little finger on his left hand, and suffered mild hypothermia, dehydration and frostbite.

An Australian military spokesman said his survival was “remarkable”.

Bullimore, too, acknowledged the odds were against him.

He said: “Every now and then, you realise how fortunate you are to be here.”
Bullimore was a founding member of the famous Bamboo Club in Bristol, which he opened with wife Lalel, in 1966.

The nightclub hosted stars including Bob Marley and the Wailers, as well as Ben E King, before it closed 11 years after opening because of a fire.

Bristol’s Lord Mayor Cleo Lake paid tribute to Bullimore on Twitter.

“A Bristol legend both on the waters and on the music scene. Everything you did to break down racial barriers. Sleep well Tony Bullimore and thank you,” she wrote.