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Yachting aficionado Hal Wagstaff is being celebrated for his contribution to sport in New Zealand.

Wagstaff passed away aged 88 after a short stay in North Shore Hospital.

He was an architect, sailor, yachting administrator and international judge and umpire but was best known as a renowned boat designer. 

Wagstaff built his first boat aged 16 and developed, among others, the R Class, Cherub, Javelin and various keelboats. He enjoyed designing boats within classes that allowed innovation and evolution. He designed and built the first moth to New Zealand in the 1960s and developed the design which was later adopted as the international Moth.

The class has recently joined the foiling revolution and it's something Hal probably approved of given his philosophy to design.

Wagstaff was able to bring this approach to yachting administration over more than 70 years.

He was a top youth sailor at Wellington's Evans Bay Yacht & Motor Boat Club and joined the club's administration in the 1948/49 season.

This developed exponentially and, among his many roles, he managed the New Zealand sailing team to the 1972 Munich Olympics, was a member of the executive on the New Zealand Olympic Committee (1970-93), Yachting New Zealand president (1989-91) and in 1994 he became the first New Zealander appointed as a vice president of the International Sailing Federation (now World Sailing).

As an international judge and umpire, Hal officiated at more than 50 major international or world championships regattas.

He was widely recognised for his service and accomplishments, receiving an OBE in 1985, membership of the New Zealand Olympic Order in 1994, a long service gold medal from ISAF in 1998, life membership of both ISAF and Yachting New Zealand and he was also made a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

But Hal was much more than a list of titles and accomplishments. He cared about the sport and the people within it. 

Former NZOC Deputy Chair Simon Wickham says Hal will be sorely missed.

“He was affectionately known as ‘Hurricane Hal’ in yachting circles. He had a relentless desire to get things done and make things happen and he contributed a lot to sport in New Zealand.”

Hal's own racing career continued until 2009, winning various regional, island and national titles. He loved nothing better than to sail and compete with old friend Don St Clair Brown on Dragons and then Anticipation. Many of his designs also enjoyed considerable success nationally and internationally.

"Hal Wagstaff will be a great loss to yachting in New Zealand," Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie said. "He had an unparalleled career in design and service to New Zealand yachting.

"Hal rarely missed an AGM, always kept a close eye on what was happening around the country or on the international stage and loved to pick up the phone and, in the most polite way, offer a clear and precise perspective on whatever was topical. Hal was generous with his time and expertise and could be described as one of life's true gentlemen."

A service for Hal Wagstaff will be held at QBE Stadium on Wednesday at 12.30pm.


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