Vale David Forbes

The Australian sailing community is mourning the passing of one of its greatest contributors, David Forbes OAM, 1934 to 2022.

27 May 2022


David Forbes, accomplished yachtsman and Olympian, has passed away, aged 88.

Born in Sydney, Forbes become one of Australia’s most successful yachtsmen throughout a domestic and international career.

“We have lost one of the most passionate and creative yachtsmen ever born in Australia,” said Australian Sailing President Daniel Belcher.

“David was a friend to many, and his loss will be felt right across the country. He achieved so much on the water in his competitive career, off the water as a designer and later in the business world.

“On behalf of Australian Sailing I would like to send our condolences to David’s family and many friends at this sad time.”

Forbes will be remembered by many for his Olympic gold medal win in the Star Class at Munich in 1972, alongside crewmate John Anderson OAM.


It was Australia’s second Olympic sailing gold medal ever, after the Barrenjoey’s victory at Tokyo eight years earlier.

But there was so much more to his career, one which spanned over 20 years and included a 5.5-metre world championship in 1970, a Sydney Hobart race in 1974 and ten Australian championships, including the Star (seven times), 5.5-metre, Soling and Etchells classes.

Forbes represented Australia at three Olympic Games: 1968 Mexico City, 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal and was a member of two America’s Cup challenges. He was part of the Gretel II crew in the 1970 America’s Cup and was relief helmsman in the 1977 America’s Cup.

John Bertrand AO was a life-long friend of Forbes, having met him in 1969 as a part of Sir Frank Packer’s Gretel II America’s Cup challenge.

“He was the most naturally gifted sailor I ever met,” said Bertand.

“David’s career both in sport and business is one of celebration. He was an Olympic gold medallist in 1972 when there was no coaching and very limited support, he took on the world’s best and got the job done.

“His business career was outstanding, building the soft drink company Shelley Ecks, which developed many modern in-house technologies and was eventually sold to Coca Cola.

Right up until the end his mind was as sharp as a whip, he was completely tuned into environmental technologies, including solar energy and even nanotechnologies. He was a friend and mentor to so many, including myself and the rest of the Bertrand family. He truly was a wonderful human being.”

Forbes was recognised as Australian Sailing’s Yachtsman of the Year in 1972-73 and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1988.

In 2000, he received the Australian Sports Medal, then awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on Australia Day in 2015 for his service to Yachting. In 2018, Forbes was inducted into the Australian Sailing Hall of Fame. He will be dearly missed.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement