- 56 years old
- Date of birth: Dec 10, 1957
- Date of passing: Mar 30, 2014
|"It's not the length of life, but the depth of life" - Ralph Waldo Emerson|
This memorial website was created in memory of Robert "Buddha Bob" Billingham.
We invite you to share stories, photos, and happy messages in his memory.
"Bob was an immensely talented and organized person with whom I enjoyed working and being around inside the Yacht Club and outside. Learned a lot from him with his tremendous energy and fighting spirit. He did everything to the highest caliber and with great passion."
On behalf myself, Eileen and our three kids I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Graham, Kristina and Briana. Robert Ian Collin Billingham was a great man, and a loving husband and father. A great friend to us all; he was a scholar, an athlete, a Yachtsman and a craftsman. Robert Ian Collin Billingham, Bob to many, Buddha to most.
When I hear Buddha, the words ring in my head sound a certain way; it is in a hushed female voice that sounds something like this “Oh Buddha”.
I was a senior at UC Santa Cruz when Buddha called me and invited me to join him and John at the 1985 US nationals for the Soling class. Without hesitation I immediately said “Yes”. In the next four years we won each National and North American title we entered, the worlds twice; and took second and third in the ones we did not win. We won the Olympic trials without sailing on the last day. I think there is a common misconception about our team that won the Silver medal at the 1988 Soul Olympics. Most people including myself thought of it as Kostecki’s Soling program. But looking back on this, that team was Buddha’s team. I think Bob had been sailing for something less than 3 years when he called John and they teamed up with Mark to sail in the 84 trials. After that event they called me on Zach’s suggestion. He was an extremely smart guy and his learning curve had no limits to its trajectory. He chose his team wisely. I am pretty sure the list of people that have an Olympic sailing medal that started their sailing career after college is pretty short. He may well be the one and only.
What made our team so successful was the unique skill we brought as individuals. Bob was our team manager, our big brother and our partner. He was definitely the adult on the team. He managed all the logistics; boat shipping, air fares, hotel, rental cars, the money. The lists were endless. On any given day we had two boats moving all over the world. One was our international boat that traveled by shipping container from Russia to Australia, and the other was our US boat that was constantly moving between each the three coasts, usually driven by one or two of us.
There are so many memories that I have of the four and one half years we spend travelling and competing together. Those years had a huge impact on my life, I learned and experienced so much and Buddha was an integral part of them. Our first regatta, the US nationals in Houston where we were put up by our now great friends Steve and Karen Ghormley who are here today. Winning that regatta we qualified for the European Travel grant from US sailing. Before I knew it we were in Lake Balaton, Hungary sailing against several eastern bloc teams who arrived in army trucks! Once again we were being put up by a family from the local sailing club. We were sleeping in a one big room in the basement of this house. It had day beds all around the walls so we were all sleeping in this one big room. Now keep in mind this was only our second regatta together, so we were still getting to know each other. One night Bob and John were woken by my murmuring and were startled when I suddenly screamed out “Are you ready to set?” Bob looked at John and quickly said “But the poles not out” where upon I started thrashing about in my bed for several seconds before settling back to sleep. That one always makes me smile.
Another one I think sums up our team and Bob’s place in it needs a little background. We had a very clear division of labor as we went about preparing the boat at each regatta. John was in charge of the sails; I took care of the rig and all various rigging and repairs up on the boat and Bob took care of the polishing rig and hull and prepping the spin sheets. This ensured that Buddha rarely had to come up in the boat while it was on the trailer. Always the same routine at every event we went to. We went through a set of spinnaker sheets every 2-3 events. Bob made the sheets himself from a large spool of spectra line that we always had. The final step was always to wet sand the sheets just so to ensure they were not too slippery and not too worn.
We were mid way through the 1988 Soling Worlds in Melbourne when the cover parted on the spin sheets right at the twings during the final run of the first race of the day. We were screwed because the spin sheets would not run through the turning blocks, we did not carry a spare and we did not have time to go in and a replacement set before the second race. The solution was simple; Duct Tape! Now since the fit through the twing block was quite tight we could not do a spiral wrap around the sheets to join the covers as it would get too. So instead we opted to place the duct tape on the sheet length wise to join the parted cover. We milked the cover down the core from each side to get them as close together as we could, and then peeled off about 30” of duct tape. So there we were, Buddha and I, elbow to elbow rolling this tape on to the spin sheet, it worked perfectly. As we rolled, Bob looked up at John with a smile and said “You know there are no two more qualified people in the fleet to be doing this right now.” I think that could have been said for all the things we did in that program back then. We eventually went on to win that World Championship.
Finally I would like to extend my deepest apologies to Bob’s entire family, especially Kristina and Briana; it was a long time ago and we were so young.
It’s hard for me to believe he is gone and I will miss Buddha always."
"Those of us that knew Buddha - Knew someone who loved life, family, commitment, a challenge, sailing, people, laughter, a sense of humor, food, drink & shared an energy that so very few have. One of the very greats I have had the pleasure to be a teammate... and mischievous with! Mount Gay all around!"
"From my days as an Olympic (Soling) sailor (late 70s and early 80s), I remember Bob as one of those guys with an infectious sense of humor. I didn't know him well (I think he had a full beard at the time), but I thought of him as a friend. I believe one other anecdote of interest would be the time he sailed in Nassau with Robbie Haines and myself on a boat called Allegiance. Instead of being resentful when Robbie banished Bob to the cabin (in order to keep the rather large Bob in a low spot during some very light wind racing), Bob reveled in the humor of the episode, popping out of the companionway periodically to ask how he was doing. Bob will be missed by all!!
-- Eddie Trevelyan"
"Bob was one of the greats, a true legend. So many memories of that smile and the truly warm greeting."
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