Words by John Sheridan, Di Pearson, Peter Shipway, Tony Cable and David Reid
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has sadly lost a valued long-term Member with the passing of Rob McAuley, who joined the Club in 1958.
Rob, born in Horsham, Victoria in 1933, had a brush with banking and army officer training. With a stroke of luck, he ran into Basil Catterns, which led to his joining the film unit covering the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
This started Rob on his life-long career in the film business, from cinematographer to film and documentary producer and writer, with many great productions to his credit. Among his work, much of it with Peter Butt, were Lies, Spies and Olympics, Silent Storm (nominated for Best Documentary at Australian Film Institute awards), The Airships and The Hunt for HMAS Sydney.
There is no doubt that Rob was born with a powerful love for the sea and an insatiable fascination with boats – two factors that would have a strong bearing on the rest of his life. His early interest in sailing started in 14-foot dinghies at the St Kilda Yacht Club.
Rob then moved to Sydney and started looking for a berth on ‘real’ yachts. He was lucky enough to meet up with Mick York, sailed with him and was introduced and sponsored by him into the CYCA, which he joined in 1958. The two remained great friends until Rob’s death.
It wasn’t long until Rob was competing in Sydney Hobarts; crewing in a total of eight. During that time, he was introduced to Peter Warner’s famous Astor and her crew, joining them for the Sydney Hobart (it took line honours in 1961, 1962, 1964 and was second over the line in 1963) and to sail to the USA, later competing in the Transpac race in 1963, finishing fourth across the line.
Rob maintained strong links with the Astor crew, attending reunions every two or three years – usually when Jimmy ‘The Reb’ Sandison was in town visiting from the USA. The last was in April 2018 at Middle Harbour Yacht Club (the new CYCA Clubhouse was under construction).
For those crew no longer living, their children and/or partners were invited in their stead. The stories were legendary, and despite their many re-tellings over the years, the laughter was riotous.
A few years later, Rob sailed from Easter Island with Vic Meyer on the famous Solo (it took Sydney Hobart line honours in 1958 and 1959, finishing second over the line to Kurrewa IV in 1956, 1957 and 1960) to South America, and was lucky not to die of hyperthermia when thrown into the freezing waters at Puerto Arenas.
The past few years Rob enjoyed sailing on his Thunderbird and then Etchells at the Greenwich Flying Squadron. He then bought the legendary TGFH (The Great Floating Hotel) Southerly in partnership with his great mate John “Shero” Sheridan from their equally good mate, Don Mickleborough.
Along with other mates, Rob was a popular and regular attendee in Mickleborough’s Corner (which he was responsible for officially establishing, including a plaque) at CYCA, a Club he respected, enjoyed and contributed to.
Our sympathies to Rob’s wife Anne and their children Campbell and Rowan.
There is a fabulous two-part interview conducted by Peter Shipway with Rob McAuley on his long association with film making, sailing and the CYCA at:
17/08/1933 – 15/01/2020
Rest in Peace Old Salt!