Bob “Buddha” Billingham, an accomplished sailor who competed in the 1988 Olympics and the 1992 America’s Cup, died March 30 after a lengthy illness at his Grass Valley, Calif., home. He was 56.
Billingham’s record included representing the United States at the 1988 Olympics, winning the silver medal in the Soling Class with John Kostecki and Will Baylis, according to scuttlebutt.com. He is a five-time world champion in Solings, Etchells, J/24s and Maxis.
BIllingham had also served on the management side of the U.S. Olympic team for 20 years.
His involvement in the America’s Cup included crewing on the 1992 America’s Cup winning team America3 before assuming roles as chief operating officer for Paul Cayard at AmericaOne 2000 and Artemis Racing. Prior to the 34th America’s Cup, Billingham worked for the America’s Cup event organizers in San Francisco, preparing facilities to host Cup racing in 2012 and 2013.
“The last time I saw Bob, he was setting up to do America’s Cup commentary in a setting that, as project manager, he had orchestrated,” yachting journalist Kimball Livingston told Scuttlebutt.
“He showed no sign of the cancer or the treatments that had been in his foreground for years, and I never heard a word out of his own mouth about them. Nothing slowed Bob down until he hit the wall, and he hit the wall fast forward. In 2013, I heard a friend say that the America’s Cup was keeping him alive — to fill its demands — but Bob disappeared over the winter and I started hearing of a fast slide, not to be talked about openly. Bob was never afraid of having a public presence, as long as it wasn’t ‘about’ him.”