The Billingham Buoy

It’s all in the Bs.

The B Buoy on the cityfront of San Francisco.

Bob “Buddha” Billingham. And I know Bob’s not in love with that nickname . . .

Just as he knows he can’t quite escape it. This comes up because the renaming of the B Buoy became official on the night of March 25, at the St. Francis Sailing Foundation’s 2014 auction fundraiser—think Olympic sailors, disabled sailors, underprivileged youth—where the lion’s chunk of the $300,000+ take came, not in the form of bidding on stuff to take home, but in contributions in honor of said renaming.

billingham-sgNow we have the Billingham Buoy.

It’s out of the water for painting at the moment, but soon it will be back in the water in the traditional spot just off the windows of the St. Francis Yacht Club, a familiar sight to thousands of sailors. What would prompt such an outpouring? Well, it’s more than Bob’s list of successes in business or sailing, that’s for sure. It’s somewhere in a realm that you can’t quite put your finger on, somewhere between incredible physical power and a quiet, self-effacing regard for everyone around him. And the successes. And the contributions. Long service on the St. Francis Foundation. Long service with the US Olympic Committee. Winning AC crew in 1992, and so on.

As a project manager, Bob has run America’s Cup campaigns, and he was the facilities manager for America’s Cup 34—meaning that his job description was to produce miracles. But my favorite Billingham moment goes back to 1988, when he was middle crew and, yes, project manager for an Olympic Soling campaign with John Kostecki driving and Will Baylis on the bow. Not long before it was time to take off for the Games at Pusan and a silver medal, Kostecki and Billingham were in front of an audience on the SF cityfront.

Someone asked them if they needed more money.

In the same breath, John said “No.” Bob said “yes.”

There are plenty of people who have strong feelings about the Bs and the new Billingham Buoy. Further contributions can be made via the St. Francis Sailing Foundation web site.

And this necessary update: As I wrote this, I knew Bob was fast running out of time, but he didn’t want the fact made public. Bob died five days later, surrounded by family and knowing that he won’t be forgotten—Kimball

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