Don St Clair Brown, co-founder of The New Zealand International Yachting Trust in 1988 with Sir Tom Clark, had a lifetime interest in the sea and sailing. Few, if any other, New Zealanders have done more to support and encourage the participation and success of New Zealand sailors in international competition than Don.
From his early days ‘messing around’ in boats of all shapes and sizes, he and friends bought the legendary B4 Windward in 1935 and cruised around with RNZYS and RAYC until laying the yacht up for World War II.
After 4 years’ service overseas with the RNZAF and several years building a home and accounting practice after the war, Don sailed in International 14s before the success of Peter Mander and Geoff Cropp at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne encouraged him to assist in the establishment of the Flying Dutchman class in New Zealand. This lead to the confident participation of New Zealand in the Flying Dutchman and Finn Classes in the 1960 Olympics in Italy, where hopes of success were unfortunately not realised but the need for international participation was recognised as a must for New Zealand sailors.
With sponsorship from Rothmans and some serious fundraising, regular participation by New Zealand crews in international events followed, leading to a gold medal for Helmer Pedersen and Earle Wells in the 1964 Olympics and a top performance from Peter Mander in the Finn class.
Don owned and sailed several Flying Dutchman and Dragon class yachts and a Tornado, before eventually building the legendary Ben Lexcen designed 50 foot keeler Anticipation in 1975 and campaigning it extensively in New Zealand and off-shore for many years until his death in 2008 aged 94.
He was intimately involved in yachting administration, actively encouraging Olympic sailing from 1958 onwards, chairing the New Zealand Yachting Federation Olympic Committee for over 15 years, setting up an Olympic Capital Fund (which later became the NZYF Challenge Foundation) establishing the Foundation for Offshore Racing NZ and later merging it into the Trust, and acting as auditor and honorary treasurer for the New Zealand Yachting Federation, which subsequently awarded him life membership.
Don was Yachtsman of the Year in 1986, awarded the MBE for services to yachting in 1987 and (in a first for New Zealand) the International Yacht Racing Union gold medal in 1994 to recognise his assistance to yachting. He was a trustee and patron of the Marine Education and Recreation Centre based at Long Bay, and held many other voluntary offices in addition to his many business interests and his role as co-founder (1988), chairman (1994-1997) and patron (2003-2008) of The New Zealand International Yachting Trust.
Sir Thomas Edwin Clark (or “Tom” as he was universally known), a co-founder of The New Zealand International Yachting Trust in 1988 with Don St. Clair Brown, was a “giant of a man”, both physically and as an industrialist and sportsman. He was knighted in 1986 for services to industry and sport.
During the Great Depression, at the age of 14, he began work in the family brick and tile business (known in later years as Ceramco and famous for its Crown Lynn pottery) and remained with the business until 1993 after 62 years continuous service as an employee and director.
He had a zest for life, including racing Grand Prix cars which nearly ended in tragedy when he crashed his Ferrari car in the 1956 Australian Grand Prix and spent six months in hospital.
Tom then moved on to the water and in the mid-1960’s began a close association with yacht designer John Spencer, building and racing the plywood yachts Saracen, the all black 62 footer Infidel (now famous as “Ragtime”) and finally Buccaneer, the first true maxi yacht built in New Zealand, in which he won the Sydney-Hobart race in 1970 and later took part in major ocean races around the world. His love of helming his yachts led to his nickname of “Captain Araldite” because of his reluctance to let go of the helm.
He began a long association with Peter (later Sir Peter) Blake when as Chief Executive he committed Ceramco Limited to sponsor Peter’s campaign in the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World race in Ceramco New Zealand and then was a major influence in supporting Peter’s 1985-86 Whitbread campaign in Lion New Zealand, his 1988 Round Australia campaign in the trimaran Steinlager I, his outstandingly successful 1989-90 Whitbread campaign in Steinlager II, as well as Peter’s Jules Verne challenge in the catamaran Enza.
Having been at every America’s Cup match since the end of World War II (except for the 1988 ‘Big Boat challenge’, which he refused to attend), Sir Tom became an adviser to New Zealand’s America’s Cup campaigns, from the first venture by Sir Michael Fay in KZ7 through to the end of the successful defence of the Cup by Team New Zealand in Auckland in 2000. He was a director of Team New Zealand from its establishment in 1993 until the changing of the guard in 2001 and following the loss of the Cup in 2003, he became an enthusiastic mentor and supporter of Emirates Team New Zealand in its quest to regain the Cup under the leadership of Grant Dalton. He died in 2005 aged 88.
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