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Eight Bells: Dick Gooch

Published on June 27th, 2016

Richard John “Dick” Gooch, an airline executive who was a pioneer in sports marketing and founded the Pan Am Clipper Club Yacht Series in Hawaii, died March 15 in Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

Gooch, who helped transform the annual Waikiki Yacht Club race into an international event, was 84 when he succumbed to a long battle with cancer.

“He was a larger-than-life kind of guy,” said Ray Pendleton, a former Honolulu Star-Bulletin columnist who wrote about water activities. “He was able to create something that hadn’t been done before.”

Gooch was born in Sydney on July 18, 1931, and grew up in Mosman in New South Wales, where he played for the Mosman Rugby Club and the Colleagues Rugby Club. After his formal schooling, he spent a year in the Australian outback as a jackeroo — the equivalent of a cowboy. He bought and ran a Caltex Service Station for 25 years and served as an alderman on the Mosman Council from 1971-74.

“Themed events at the Caltex station were a common occurrence,” said his daughter Amanda Sutton. “He had university-of-life experiences.”

Sutton said her father spent about nine years working for Pan American World Airways in Honolulu after he was hired as the sports marketing promotions director in 1977.

In 1978, he expanded the Waikiki Yacht Club’s annual race to include an international field of competitors. The race attracted teams from countries around the Pacific Rim and Europe, including Japan, Mexico, Australia, France, Great Britain and New Zealand.

Frank Thomas, who bought a power boat with Gooch in the 1980s, said Gooch had the backing of many influential people in New Zealand and Australia. “Dick was quite an entrepreneur,” said Thomas, a Waikiki Yacht Club member.

He said Gooch attracted major sponsors to organize and promote the race. The yacht race, which began and ended in Waikiki, continued until 1984, then was renamed the Kenwood Cup.

Gooch was the recipient in 1980 of the prestigious Neal Shaw Blaisdell Award by the Honolulu Quarterback Club for his work as a yacht race organizer and promoter in Hawaii.

He worked as sales manager for Ansett Australia Airlines from 1985 to 1994 and later moved to Arizona, where he served as executive director of a chamber of commerce. In 1998, he moved back to Australia, living in Mudgeeraba.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Gooch of Gold Coast; son David Gooch of Sydney; daughters Debra Henry of Sydney and Amanda Sutton of Kaneohe; and eight grandchildren.

A Hawaii memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. July 3 at Kaneohe Yacht Club.


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