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On 31 October almost 400 of Richard ‘Sightie’ Hammond’s
family and friends bid farewell to a man who was as revered
in business and life as he was in his beloved sport of sailing.
Sightie, regarded as the best at everything he did, was perhaps
the finest ocean racing navigator of his time.
It seems like only yesterday we all gathered at his Clontarf
home overlooking Middle Harbour to celebrate his 75th birthday.
Actually it was five years ago. Guests that day made up many of
the hundreds that filled the church on The Corso and included
such notable Australian ocean racing identities as Syd Fischer,
Don Mickelborough, Lindsay May, Bruce Jackson, Grant Simmer,
Iain Murray, John Anderson, Hugh Treharne, and his lifelong mates
Dick Norman and Colin Betts.
Emotional words of tribute were delivered by those closest, Eric
Goodwin and his sailing companions Peter Shipway, Ian Kiernan
AO and Keith Tierney. Fellows who have spent many wonderful
times racing together in all classes of boats from dinghies, skiffs,
and ocean racing yachts.
Born in 1933 at Coffs Harbour, the Hammond family moved to
Sydney a year later setting up home in Manly. Educated at Manly
West Primary he was Dux of the School winning a scholarship to
North Sydney Boys High. He completed his schooling at North
Sydney Technical College later graduating from Ultimo Technical
College with a degree in Engineering.
He worked at the Water Board before joining construction
company Civil & Civic, now Lend Lease. Richard was appointed
Site Engineer on the Sydney Opera House Stage 1 and later, Project
Manager of the innovative Australia Square.
Sir Frank Packer asked Civil and Civic to retrofit the Daily
Telegraph premises in Castlereagh Street. At the same time
property was purchased in Park Street to erect a new building to
house Consolidated Press’s head office.
Recalling a conversation with Sir Frank about the property
acquisition Sightie said, “Sir Frank and I were standing on the
roof of Park Street. He asked me how much it would cost. Ninety
three thousand pounds I replied. Ninety three thousand pounds!
shrieked Sir Frank. But Sir Frank, that’s just chicken feed. Packer’s
retort stops me in my tracks; Look sonny, ninety three thousand
pounds is never chicken feed, don’t you ever forget that ... I’ll buy it”.
Sightie will be as much remembered for his generosity and
philanthropy as he was for his brilliant engineering and sailing
At seven, his mother Olga bought him a seven foot canvas canoe.
“I rigged this thing to make it sail. Mum made the sails from
sheets and I would get whatever wood I could to make a mast.”
Sightie graduated to dinghies then joined the 16foot skiff class.
Here he met Russell Slade.
“I asked Russell if I could sail with him. He asked me why and
I said because I want to sail with winners. I missed out. Col Betts
got the job as sheet hand. I started sailing with Russell when he
got into yacht racing with Janzoon I. My first ocean racing was on
a yacht called Wanderer i n 1952. ”
“In the 1953 Montague Island race we were hit by a big southerly
after rounding the island. We did a full standing gybe and lost the
rig and our helmsman Tom Faulkner. Doug Brown dived into the
raging sea and swam 100 yards bringing Tom back to the boat.
We retired to Ulladulla.”
From 1955 to 1966 Hammond continued sailing with Russell
Slade on Janzoon I and then Janzoon II.
In 1967 Sightie had his first taste of international victory when
sailing aboard Mercedes III and, along with Gordon Ingate’s Caprice of
Huon and Sir Robert Crichton-Brown’s Balandra, won the Admiral’s
Cup. In 1968, he joined Denis O’Neil aboard Koomooloo with his
mates Dick Norman and Col Betts winning the Sydney to Hobart.
“ Sightie was truly a brilliant navigator, seaman and shipmate,
always in the highest demand when any boat or campaign was
looking for a navigator,” said his mate Peter Shipway. In the days
of Clipper Cup or Admiral’s Cup, whenever a team was selected
the question was always, ‘What yacht is Sightie navigating? ’
“Richard was a perfectionist who strove for excellence in
everything he did. Sightie’s remarkable achievements include
40 Hobarts with two overall wins and two line honours, seven
Admiral’s Cup Series with two wins; three Clipper Cup Series
with two victories; victories in the Round State of Hawaii, Cowes
to Dinard; Lord Howe Island Race; Maxi World Championships
Sightie was a man of great passion, he was compassionate,
generous, meticulous, diligent, gregarious and mischievous. As
another great sailing friend, Don Mickelborough recalls,
“Dick was a crafty bugger. He was always in the middle of
the fun and mischief but never got caught ... he was great at
loading the gun and getting someone else to fire it! Hence I,
Bruce Jackson and others spent time suspended from some fine
yachting establishments while Sightie escaped.”
Sightie had two addictions. The first was that he loved to have
FUN and the second was sailing. Sailing completed the man. From
boyhood to his passing he was devoted to the sea, sailing and
navigation. Richard ‘Sightie’ Hammond was a remarkable human
being. His passing leaves a huge hole in many a heart.
Ian Kiernan, AO said of Sightie, “His brilliant smile and
wonderful humour will always be with us.
“In Europe they bury their heroes under cathedral floors.
We generally consign our sailing heroes’ remains to the ocean. I
like this as their spirits are with us and future generations for all
time. We came from the ocean, it is fitting we should finish there.
Thanks Dick, you were a wonderful mate. You taught us so much.”
h Patrick ‘Tenpin’ Bollen
ocean racing navigator,
philanthropist and engineer
Richard ‘Sightie’ Hammond (fourth from left) at his 75th – with
John Munson, Kieth Tierney, Syd Fischer, Ian Kiernan and Hugh
RICHARD ‘SIGHTIE’ HAMMOND
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