Eight Bells: Ron Packer

Published on December 12th, 2022

About 800 people gathered at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (Perth, Australia) to celebrate the life of and pay tribute to one of its favorite sons and former commodore, Ron Packer, who succumbed to a long fight against cancer at 71 years on November 29, 2022.

Ron was one of sailing’s “rock star” navigators in the golden era of sailing back in the sixties and seventies. He sailed his first Sydney to Hobart in ’68 on Neil McAllister’s Starfire, spending most of the race pumping, because they had sprung a plank or two.

This did not put him off and he did several more Hobarts on the family boat Hotspur, before, on a newer family boat Rampage they won the ’75 Hobart, the first and only Western Australian boat ever to achieve this.

He sailed his first Fastnet Race on Alan Bond’s Apollo in 1971, guiding them to second place. Then in ’73 he was on Bondy’s Apollo II as part of the Australian Admiral’s Cup team, which finished second.

Still with Alan Bond’s sailing programme he was navigator on Southern Cross for the ’74 America’s Cup.

Although claiming to have given up offshore racing, he was persuaded back by his brother Chris to join the crew of the Australian Admiral’s Cup team boat Police Car in ’79. They survived the dramatic Fastnet race, despite being rolled twice on the way back from the rock, finishing fourth and helping Australia win the prestigious Admiral’s Cup.

Away from sailing Ron was called up by the Australian Army and put through training to serve in Vietnam, but fortunately the war ended before he was deployed. However, while working in London as a lawyer he joined Honourable Artillery Company as part of the British Army Reserve.

When he returned home to Perth he joined the family property business and remained an active sailor in the Etchells, Flying Fifteen, and Dragon classes at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. With wife Phillipa, also a competitive sailor, they had three daughters of whom he was immensely proud, and who all spoke about him with affection and humour at the wake.

Ron was a Life Patron of Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Source: John Roberson

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