Noel Robins, OAM (AUS) (b 1935 – d 2003)
Robins skippered the 12 Metre Australia in the 1977 America’s Cup Match which was sailed against Ted Turner’s Courageous. In 1980 he returned with Alan Bond’s challenging team as a coach.
Seven years later, following Bond’s successful 1983 Australia II challenge, when the Royal Perth Yacht Club needed to organize the first ever America’s Cup season outside of the United States, Robins as Executive Director applied masterful management to the project which resulted in the magnificent organization of the 26th America’s Cup in Fremantle, Australia. That event in 1986-87 is widely credited to this day as probably the greatest season of America’s Cup sport ever.
Robins’ own lifetime sailing achievements at the very highest level were made even more remarkable by the fact that he had to overcome the handicap of becoming a walking quadriplegic following a car accident at the age of just 21.
“Stumbles”, as he was universally known among his fellow sailors, won five Australian National titles in addition to 13 State titles across a variety of classes. It was his success in the Soling class that drew him to the attention of Alan Bond who made him skipper of Australia.
Robins took the skipper’s role extremely seriously. Recognizing gaps in the talent pool in Australia necessary to be competitive he selected an American match racing expert, Andy Rose, to be his tactician for the latter stages of the Challenger Selection Series. Racing against France I, Gretel II and Sverige and eventually beating them, Australia, under Robins’ leadership, became the Challenger for the Match. But Ted Turner’s Courageous was better prepared and battle ready and defeated the Australians.
When the impossible dream of beating the Defender in a Match became reality for the first time in 1983 Robins, starting with a completely clean sheet, totally restructured the harbor facilities in Fremantle, arranging the various sites for the bases for the 13 challengers and four defense syndicates. He also incorporated the shore-side event facilities, including the Louis Vuitton International Media Centre, for what proved to be the biggest and one of the best America’s Cup events to date.
Noel’s post America’s Cup sailing career included a win in both the Admiral’s Cup and the Two Ton Cup in 1981. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Sailability Program for disabled sailors at the Royal Perth YC, and a commissioner of the Swan River Trust. In 2000 he collected a gold medal at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, an achievement that also secured him the Medal of the Order of Australia. His life ended prematurely in 2003 in a second motor vehicle accident.