Tony Bullimore

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Tony Bullimore (15 January 1939 – 31 July 2018),[1] was a British businessman and international yachtsman. He is known especially for being rescued on 10 January 1997 during a sailing race after he had been presumed dead.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex,[2] he was educated at Claremont School.

Bullimore moved to Bristol in the early 1960s and married Lalel, a West Indian immigrant. In 1966 they opened the Afro-Caribbean-inspired Bamboo Club, which was billed as "Bristol's Premier West Indian Entertainment Centre", housed a restaurant, theatre workshop, football team and was the headquarters of the Bristol West Indian Cricket Club. The top floor housed the music venue, with DJs playing reggae and American soul music, and bands performed including Bob Marley and The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Ben E. King and Tina Turner.[1][3] The club burned down in 1977,[1] just before the Sex Pistols were due to play there.[3][4] Bullimore had already opened "The Granary" club at Bristol's Granary building in the early 1970s, which after ten years he slowly sold off to concentrate on other business ventures. He also became a race relations advocate in Bristol.[3][4]


Bullimore was rescued after capsizing during the 1996–97 Vendée Globe single-handed around-the-world race. The race was marked by a number of incidents, including the death of another contestant, Gerry Roufs.

On 5 January 1997, in the Southern Ocean near 52°S 100°E / 52°S 100°E / -52; 100 (Tony Bullimore distress), around 2,500 kilometres (1,300 nmi) off the Australian coast and in winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour (100 mph; 90 kn),[5] Bullimore's boat, Exide Challenger capsized and the majority of press and media reports assumed that the 57-year-old sailor was lost. Bullimore was alive and managed to survive in an air pocket in the upside-down boat in pitch darkness, having lost his food supplies, aside from a bar of chocolate. The Royal Australian Navy launched a rescue mission for Bullimore and another Vendée Globe capsized competitor, Thierry Dubois. On 9 January, Dubois was rescued by an Australian S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter embarked on the frigate HMAS Adelaide.[6][7]

Adelaide then proceeded further south to where the Exide Challenger had been located by a RAAF P-3 Orion. Adelaide dispatched a rigid-hulled inflatable boat to the Exide Challenger where crew members knocked on the hull. Hearing the noise, Bullimore swam out from his boat and was quickly rescued by personnel from Adelaide.[8] HMAS Adelaide then returned both Dubois and Bullimore to Perth.[9] During the return journey, Bullimore met with each member of the boat's crew to thank them for saving his life.

In 2000 he was featured in a BBC documentary about crossing the Atlantic Ocean, with the comedian Lenny Henry.[1]

Bullimore skippered a team that came second in the 2005 Oryx Quest. In 2007, he was involved in another sailing record attempt.[10]


Bullimore died on 31 July 2018, aged 79, of a rare form of stomach cancer.[1][3][4]


  • Saved, Time Warner Paperbacks, 1998, ISBN 0751523348
  • Rescue in the Southern Ocean, Penguin Group Australia, 1997, ISBN 0140268375
  • Yachting Yarns, Little, Brown Book Group Limited, 2000, ISBN 0316850446.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Bristol sailor and entrepreneur Tony Bullimore dies aged 79". BBC News. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Tony Bullimore". The Edge. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Tristan Cook (31 July 2018). "Tributes to Bamboo Club pioneer Tony Bullimore 'a Bristol legend' who has died". Bristol Post. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Round-the-world yachtsman Tony Bullimore has died". ITN News. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Tony Bullimore: British sailor who survived four days under a capsized yacht in the Southern Ocean dies aged 79". ABC News. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Bullimore rescued after five days". BBC News. 9 January 1997. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  7. ^ Roberson, John (April 1997). "Capsizes and Rescues". Sailing World. Cruising World Publications. Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  8. ^ Luke Harding and Christopher Zinn, "Alive - after four days in a watery tomb", The Guardian, 10 January 1997. Accessed 9 July 2014.
  9. ^ Vetter, Craig, "Godforsaken", Outside, January 1998. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  10. ^ Sail World - Powerboat-world: Sail and sailing, cruising, boating news


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