Remembering Tony Bullimore

Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), Kerry Berrington (News Limited) (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Adelaide (II), Search and Rescue (SAR)

Solo round-the-world sailor Tony Bullimore (right) embraces Chief Petty Officer Peter Wicker, one of his rescuers from HMAS Adelaide (II) in January 1997. (photo: Kerry Berrington (News Limited))
Solo round-the-world sailor Tony Bullimore (right) embraces Chief Petty Officer Peter Wicker, one of his rescuers from HMAS Adelaide (II) in January 1997.

The Royal Australian Navy has paid tribute to solo sailor Tony Bullimore, who has passed away aged 79.

A well-known entrepreneur and sailing enthusiast from Bristol, UK, Mr Bullimore made world headlines after surviving for several days after his boat capsized during a solo round-the-world yacht race in 1997, before being rescued by the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Adelaide (II). News of his rescue and imagery of a delighted Mr Bullimore hugging his Navy rescuers was beamed across the globe.

The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, expressed his condolences on behalf of the RAN.

“The events of January 1997 built an unbreakable bond between Mr Bullimore and the Royal Australian Navy,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.

“Mr Bullimore’s survival in the upturned hull of his boat—the Exide Challenger—for four days in the Southern Ocean remains a remarkable testament to his skill and bravery.

“We mourn the loss of Mr Bullimore, and our sympathies are with his family, friends and shipmates.”

The rescue of Mr Bullimore, and that of fellow competitor Mr Thierry Dubois, was an extensive operation that involved HMAS Westralia and a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, along with Adelaide and her embarked Seahawk S70-B helicopter.

Mr Bullimore managed to survive for four days in an air pocket in Exide Challenger’s upturned hull. After locating the yacht, Adelaide’s seaboat crew was amazed to get a response from Mr Bullimore to knocking on the hull.

Following his extraordinary survival, Mr Bullimore expressed his gratefulness to Captain Raydon Gates and the crew of Adelaide who had crashed sailed from Fleet Base West to undertake the search and rescue operation.

Australia maintains search and rescue responsibility for almost 10 percent of the Earth’s surface, including much of the Southern Ocean—one of the most remote places on the planet.