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Robert Green Obituary

On 13 March 2022, Robert Green, a life-long Sandringham Yacht Club member and well-known Australian sailor, passed away after a short illness.

Robert was a veteran of 25 Sydney to Hobart yacht races and owned a number of racing yachts throughout his life, including most recently, the Pacific 50 yacht ‘Dream’, which he raced and cruised extensively for the past 13 years.

Robert’s lifelong passion for sailing was passed down from his parents, Bob and Peggy who were both active sailors.  Peggy was a founding member of the Hampton Sailing Club and Robert’s father Bob ran a timber yard in Mordialloc.

Robert started sailing in a succession of family yachts, including a 28 foot cutter called ‘Karelia’, which had a Sabot tender called ‘Cruis’n Susan’. Robert took it over aged eight and then in his early ‘teens joined the Sandringham Yacht Club juniors and raced in a friend’s Gwen 12.

After attending Black Rock Primary School and Haileybury College, Robert studied law at the University of Melbourne and went on to run a very successful legal practice in Hampton for many years.

In the early 1960s, the Green family converted their garage in Middleton St Black Rock,  into a boat building shed, where the well-known Sparkman & Stevens designed timber yacht ‘Tamboo’ was built. ‘Tamboo’ was a very special vessel for Robert and he would speak fondly of her and the wonderful sailing experiences he enjoyed in her with his father.

In 1965 aged 21, Robert completed his first Sydney to Hobart race on ‘Tamboo’ and again in 1966 – when ‘Tamboo’ finished an impressive third overall on handicap. This was the first time a Victorian yacht had finished with a placing. She went on to sail around the world twice with later owners.

Before establishing his Hampton legal practice ‘Robert Green & Co’, Robert spent several years living, sailing and working in the UK, where he met and married his wife Sally.

Robert represented England in the 1971 Admiral’s Cup on ‘Prospect of Whitby’, along with Ted Heath’s ‘Morning Cloud’ and Bob Watson’s Yacht ‘Cervantes IV’. The team won this very prestigious event and Robert described the celebrations afterwards at Chequers, the British Prime Minister’s official country residence in Buckinghamshire, as “really were quite something”!  Robert also sailed on ‘Prospect of Whitby’ as part of the English Southern Cross Cup team, after moving back to Australia with Sally in 1973.

In 1983 Robert launched ‘Lawless’, a 30-footer designed by his younger brother John and it was also built in the Green family garage. ‘Lawless’ is remembered as a very tough little yacht and she won every ocean race she entered for a number of years. She was a testament to Robert’s great skills in boat preparation and ocean racing and his very special knowledge of how to set up a yacht for rough weather – a skill he put to work when preparing all of his yachts. She finished second overall in the rough 1984 Sydney-Hobart race, behind the Farr 40 ‘Indian Pacific’ despite the retirement of a high proportion of the fleet.

‘Lawless’ was followed by the 34 footer ‘Jacobina of Shenval’ designed by Scott Jutson and launched in 1991. She was named after Jacobina Green, Robert’s Great-Grandmother, who, as a widow with seven children, emigrated from the family farm called ‘Shenval’ located near Aberlour in Scotland to Australia in 1888 abord the ‘Loch Ness’.

Robert was also a great contributor to the administration of sailing and of ocean racing in particular. He was the Commodore of the Ocean Racing Club of Victoria in 1988-89 and a member of the Executive of Yachting Victoria and was the Victorian representative on the Yachting Australia Offshore Committee.

Robert is also remembered as being very supportive and encouraging of younger sailors and anyone new to the sport and he gave a lot of newcomers the opportunity to get out sailing and to learn.

‘Jacobina’ was followed by the Davidson 35’ ‘Kings Cross’, which he campaigned with Bruce Edmunds and then the more cruising oriented Farr 43 footer ‘Chance of Shenval’ or “the fat chance” as she was affectionately known, which indicated that Robert was wanting to (at least temporarily) move somewhat into cruising mode.

In 2006 – 2007 Robert cruised ‘Chance’ to Wellington, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia. Then in 2008 Robert completed his 25th Sydney to Hobart race.

Robert  particularly enjoyed the mental challenges of sailing, the need to concentrate, to pick up on wind observations and the many other factors that go into sailing a great race – leading to good decisions – which he found to be very satisfying.

Upon retirement, Robert and his crew enjoyed cruising on Dream to the South Pacific including trips to Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia (twice) and five times to the Whitsundays to compete in the northern Winter regattas at Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island and at Magnetic island.

It has been estimated that Robert Green sailed approximately 40,000 ocean miles in ‘Chance’ and ‘Dream’, approaching the equivalent distance of two circumnavigations and, when ocean miles sailed in 25 Sydney to Hobarts plus many deliveries is tallied, his total distance sailed is well over 70,000 ocean miles.

The crew on ‘Dream’ remember some of Robert’s wonderful quotable quotes uttered over the years, including the following gems:

  • C’mon this isn’t your Daddy’s yacht!” – issued to a member of the crew who was too slow to move; and
  • You should never have an opinion unless you’re paid for it.” , which of course showed that Robert had never truly given up his solicitor’s mindset.

Robert is remembered as being very appreciative for the support provided to him by his family and friends.  He was very much a team player and success for Robert was not about him, but about success for the team. 

Robert lived to the following great words of Mark Twain that he had mounted on the main bulkhead of ‘Dream’:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Robert made an outstanding contribution to the sport of sailing, to Sandringham Yacht Club and to the lives of many crew members who were very fortunate to have had the experience of sailing with him.  He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Robert is survived and fondly remembered by his wife Sally, his daughters Philippa and Vanessa and by his three grandchildren, Riley Barkly and Freya.