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Napier's fishing and sailing communities were in shock today after the death of businessman Mike Claudatos in a yachting disaster in the Bay of Plenty.
Mr Claudatos, 52, and regular crewmate Warren Clarke were sailing the 12-m keel boat, Time To Burn, from Gisborne to Tauranga for repairs when the tragedy happened yesterday morning.
Mr Clarke, also aged in his 50s, was not badly hurt, but was flown to Tauranga Hospital.
A Tauranga Police spokesman said today Mr Clarke was found on the upturned hull after the alarm was raised about 5.20am, while the body of Mr Claudatos was found in the water about 100m away.
Sergeant Wayne Lambert, of Tauranga Police, said sea conditions were not rough at the time and the weather was mild. It appeared the yacht had lost its keel but the reason why was not yet known.
Maritime New Zealand will investigate the incident. Mr Lambert said: ``The chap who passed away was having difficulty with his life jacket while in the water and was overwhelmed by the conditions and died.'
Mr Clarke survived by tying himself to the rudder of the upturned hull.
The Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) was alerted to the pair's plight when an emergency locator beacon was activated, from the vicinity of Motiti Island, at 5.20am. A maritime radio mayday call and the release of two distress flares followed almost immediately.
The Trust Power Rescue Helicopter, a Phillips Rescue Trust fixed wing aircraft and a Tauranga Coastguard vessel were sent to search for the yacht, which was found overturned near Motiti Island, 20km east of Mt Maunganui, just before 7am.
Mr Claudatos, with brothers Tim and Andy, operated Star Fish Supply and Star Foods, a family business. The business was the cornerstone of Napier's fish industry and was started by their father, Basil Claudatos, who died in October last year. Tim Claudatos said today his brother's death was ``devastating' for the family and Star Fish staff, who numbered up to 50 at peak times. ``This will be bigger than when dad passed away,' he said. ``Dad had a full life but Mike still had so much to give.' His brother was often called on as a spokesman and advocate for others in the industry throughout the country, and he had several sporting interests outside of work. Among those was duckshooting, and Tim Claudatos said: ``Things will never be the same at Puketapu in the season again.' Today, family were still waiting news of when they would be able to bring Mike Claudatos back to Napier. With some family overseas, it was expected that a funeral might not be able to take place until next week.