Peter Mander and Jack Cropp started a fine tradition when they won the Sharpie class gold medal at the3 1956 Melbourne Olympics. They were the pioneers of what has become a magnificent New Zealand yachting tradition.
Mander and Cropp (Cropp was a year older) lived only a mile apart in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs and sailed together from a young age. In 1951 Mander was the skipper of a crew that won the prestigious Sanders Cup national javelin title. Cropp, also from Christchurch, was a member of his crew. They repeated the triumph in 1953.
At the Olympics, the New Zealanders, sailing Jest, recorded placings of 2-1-5-4-1-1-2, but even with those results their gold medal triumph could not have been closer. Australians Roly Tasker and Malcolm Scott looked to have shaded them for the gold after the final race, and the New Zealanders went off to celebrate their silver.
Then came word that the French had protested the Australians for obstruction and a few hours later the protest jury upheld the protest. When the points were recalculated after the Australian team was disqualified from the last race, the New Zealanders and Australians finished with the same number of points. Cropp and Mander won the gold because they had scored more first place finishes.
Mander attended St Andrew’s College. He became an accountant and later managed a large clothing manufacturing plant.
He had a long and varied career as a yachtie. At 24 he challenged the Australian and Auckland Flying Yacht Squadrons and won the 1952 world 18ft title in 1952. He repeated the effort in 1954. At 28, he won the Olympic gold. He retired from racing shortly afterwards, but in 1964 he staged a sensational comeback to win the New Zealand Olympic Finn class trials at Napier and earn selection for the Tokyo Olympics. His selection meant he had to decline the post of New Zealand yachting team manager at those Olympics.
He went within a whisker of winning a medal at Tokyo with placings of 8-4-6-8-1-7-19.
As well as his outstanding racing career, which brought him three international titles and 11 national titles, Mander established a reputation as a designer and builder and also become one of the leading yachting administrators in New Zealand. He was still sailing competitively when he held the post of president of the New Zealand Yachting Federation.
Mander’s contribution to New Zealand yachting was recognised in 1972 when he was voted Sailor of the Year.
The Canterbury man was a happy-go-lucky personality, but he was an outstanding yachting technician. Remarkably, for such an outstanding sportsman, he had only one eye. His father Stan was a New Zealand hockey rep.
Mander was married to Joan. They had three children. His brothers, David and Graham, were also leading yachtsmen.
Mander and Cropp were inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.