Bob Fisher, former world champion sailor and Guardian writer, dies aged 85

Paul MacInnes
·2-min read

Ben Ainslie has led the tributes to Bob Fisher, the former Guardian sailing correspondent known as “Mr America’s Cup”, who has died at the age of 85.

Fisher was himself a world champion sailor, and a navigator on record-breaking cross Atlantic challenges, before going on to apply his expert knowledge to chronicling the sport.

He reported for the Guardian from 1958 to 2013 and covered 16 editions of the America’s Cup, about which he also wrote a two-volume history. Fisher had been accredited to report on this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

His death was announced on Monday night by his daughter Alice. “It is with such sadness that Dee, Alice & Carolyne have to convey the passing of our fantastic, unique and extraordinary husband and father Bob,” she wrote on Facebook.

“He lived his whole life to the full and shall leave the fondest of memories not only as a husband and father, as a friend to all the sailing community in the UK, but to the sailing community worldwide.”

Ainslie, whose rise to the top of competitive sailing was observed keenly by Fisher, was among many from within the sport to pay tribute.

“Saddened to hear of the passing of Bob Fisher, whom many considered the doyen of yachting correspondents,” Ainslie wrote on Twitter. “He gave a huge amount to sailing through his passion for the sport #sailonBob.”

Bob Fisher with King Constantine of Greece  at the 1998 World Sailor of the Year awards
Bob Fisher with King Constantine of Greece at the 1998 World Sailor of the Year awards. Photograph: Getty Images

Fisher was born in Brightlingsea on the Essex coast, a town with a history of providing sailors for perennially unsuccessful British challenges in the America’s Cup.

A sailor from his childhood years, Fisher initially trained as a dentist before turning to journalism. But his love of racing on water never diminished and he became a world champion in the fireball and hornet dinghies in the 1960s.

After winning the “Little America’s Cup” in 1967, Fisher concentrated his energies fully on reporting and in particular on the America’s Cup. A critic of Britain’s continued failings to compete with the US and New Zealand, he still wrote on the competition with unrivalled flair and attention to detail.

His history of the race he described as “the most riveting on the water”, Sailing on the Edge, remains the authority on the subject.

In a tweet on the competition’s official account, the America’s Cup paid tribute to Fisher. “Sailing and the America’s Cup has lost a true gentleman of the sport,” the statement read. “An encyclopedia of sailing knowledge and history, Bob Fisher and his writing will last for generations to come. The entire America’s Cup community’s thoughts are with Dee and the family. Rest in Peace Bob.”