Throughout his working life, Bob Billingham has had the difficult task of attempting to balance his pursuit of a professional career with his passion for sailing. Until now. As the newly appointed chief operating officer and operations manager for AmericaOne, his project management and sailing careers have become one. He could not be more pleased.
"This job is exciting. It's the natural combination of parallel careers that have conflicted with each other," Billingham says. "In the past, I often was frustrated. For the first time the two careers complement each other."
For more than a decade, he has worked as a manager of corporate facilities and large-scale construction projects. But that career endured major interruptions when he opted for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to put his sailing skills to the test. It was not without reward. In 1988, he won an Olympic silver medal in the Soling competition at the Olympic Games as a crewman for AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki. And in 1991-1992 he was the mainsheet trimmer aboard America's Cup winner America³.
Yet, when it comes to sailing, Billingham was a late bloomer. It wasn't until after he graduated from college that he took up the sport. And even then he took the unlikely route of starting on big boats, then migrating to smaller, Olympic-class keelboats.
He had accepted an invitation to sail in the Transpac Race to Hawa| one year and was bitten by the sailing bug. A football player in college, it wasn't long before he was sailing big boats on San Francisco Bay as a grinder. He joined the St. Francis Yacht Club in 1981.
In 1984, he and Kostecki made a late-hour bid for the Olympics, but fell short. Undaunted, they mounted a four-year campaign that culminated in the silver medal in Pussan, South Korea.
Billingham also sailed Star-class boats, crewing for Paul Cayard and Vince Brun, among others. But since the 1992 America's Cup, it's been mostly work and little sailing. When the chance to combine the two careers emerged, it was an opportunity he did not want pass up.
As for his job at AmericaOne, "I will be sailing a desk," he chuckles. But the key element is that that desk is a critical component of a sailing organization intent on winning the America's Cup. Billingham is charged with directing syndicate operations, including facility development both in San Francisco and New Zealand.
Billingham lives with his wife, Christine, and their seven-year-old daughter, Briana, in San Mateo.