Initially Chris Timms’ sports passion was mountain climbing. Timms, born in 1947, was a university student in Christchurch in the 1960s and would climb whenever possible until in 1966 he was seriously injured after falling 200 feet on to an ice edge while climbing Met Elie de Beaumont at the head of the Tasman Glacier. A friend was killed in the same fall.
Timms spent three months in traction and decided to give mountaineering a wide berth after that, turning to sailing. He moved to Wellington to finish his university studies and began sailing Shearwater catamarans with Laurie Hope. After a couple of years they won the national title.
But the Shearwater catamarans were a relatively minor class, so Timms then turned to Tornados, not only sailing them, but even building one in his flat in Wellington.
After Hope gave away competitive sailing, Timms teamed with Simon Grain and they won three consecutive national titles, from 1974-76, as well as doing some sailing at big events overseas. The goal was the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Timms and Grain earned nomination, but were not chosen – two of only three people nominated but not sent to the Olympics that year.
Grain shifted to Australia and Timms then teamed with Peter Douglas. They finished fourth in the world championships at Long Beach in 1977.
Timms and Hope reunited, targeting the 1980 Moscow Olympics but were beaten for selection by the pairing of Rex Sellers and Gerald Sly.
When Hope quit, Timms found yet another helmsman, Brian Peet. Timms-Peet placed third at the 1981 pre-Olympic regatta at Los Angeles, won the 1981 Canadian nationals and were sixth in the 1982 pre-Olympics.
In the 1984 Olympic trials Timms and Peet were edged out by Sellers and Rex Sly. Then things moved quickly. Sellers and Sly had a falling out and Sellers invited Timms, a long-time rival, to join him in sailing the Tornados at the 1984 Olympics.
It turned out to be a magic partnership. They were diverse personalities – Timms outspoken and ebullient, Sellers more understated – but they worked well on the water.
At Los Angeles, they had a 3-2-1-2-1-3 sequence and were able to bypass the final race and still win by a wide margin. Four years later they made a gallant effort to retain their Olympic title, finishing with the silver medal behind peerless Frenchmen Nicholas Henard and Jean-Yves le Deroff at Pusan.
They were preparing for a tilt at their third Olympics when their partnership broke up and instead Sellers sailed at Barcelona with Brian Jones.
Timms was by now 45 and his Olympic career was over. Timms was a resin chemist in Auckland. In 1992 a massive fire in his resin factory destroyed his three boats, ending any lingering hopes he had of having a tilt at Olympic selection that year.
In 1984, Timms, Sellers and Russell Coutts shared the New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year title.