David Forbes was involved in top level sailing competition for over 20 years. Apart from winning an Olympic gold medal in 1972, he won a 5.5m world championship in 1970, a Sydney to Hobart race in 1974, and ten Australian championships, in the Star (seven times), 5.5m, Soling, and Etchell classes. He 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 a part of the ‘Gretel II’ crew in the 1970 America’s Cup, and was relief helmsman in the 1977 America’s Cup.
It was after the 1970 America’s Cup challenge that Forbes and John Anderson (members of ‘Gretel II’) began planning for the 1972 Munich Games. They won the 1971 Australian Star class championship in ‘Scallywag’, then sailed the boat in the Olympic trials, winning all seven races. Competing in Europe, they found their opposition much stronger.
In the Kiel Week regatta, they tended to do well in the early stages of the races, but would then start to fall back through the field. Overall they finished 28th in the regatta and they realised that they were just too slow. A month before the Games, they decided they needed to replace ‘Scallywag’ and it represented a huge gamble. While Forbes returned to Australia, Anderson went boat hunting and in Switzerland, found ‘Simba’.
As the Games loomed, they raced ‘Scallywag’ and ‘Simba’ in tuning trials, with Forbes steering ‘Simba’ and Anderson in charge of ‘Scallywag’. Other Australians, including Tom Anderson, made up the crew numbers.
Because of their poor form in ‘Scallywag’, and the makeshift nature of their switch to a new boat, Forbes and Anderson weren’t considered serious contenders to the Olympic title. With a bit of fine tuning they found speed on the eve of the Olympics and were suddenly confident. The strategy was simple, Forbes would steer, and Anderson would call tactics, and they would take no gambles.
It worked, in the seven races, they finished third, eighth, second, third, fourth, first, and third. Under the system, the worst performance was disregarded and thus their results were a model of consistency. By finishing third in the last race, they won emphatically with Sweden second and Germany third.
Forbes also competed in the Star class at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, finishing sixth, and in the Soling class at the 1976 Montreal Games, finishing eleventh. He was also a member of the Australian Admirals Cup team six times between 1973 and 1985.
David was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on Australia Day 2015 for his service to Yachting.