The man who is missing and presumed dead after falling overboard from a yacht this week tackled a crowbar-wielding robber at a superette earlier this year.

Aucklander Stephen Forno, 63, has been named as the man missing at sea after the vessel he was on - the Platino - suffered serious rigging damage on Monday morning just north of New Zealand.

In February, Mr Forno helped to stop would-be robbers from getting away with their crime, after they targeted the Bayswater Superette.

The crew from the yacht Platino. Photo / via Facebook
The crew from the yacht Platino. Photo / via Facebook

Mr Forno, whose family lives nearby, heard the shopkeeper's screams and ran outside to investigate.

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As he got outside, he saw the men and ran towards one of them - tackling him.

Mr Forno told The Devonport Flagstaff at the time: "He had the cigarettes in one arm and I had had him by the other, so I had total control of him.

The Platino is dwarfed by the container ship Southern Lily. Photo / via Facebook
The Platino is dwarfed by the container ship Southern Lily. Photo / via Facebook

"But when the other guy came at me with a crowbar, I let go. It wasn't worth getting hurt - but I had stalled them long enough for other neighbours to identify the car. Its rear licence plate was covered up with masking tape."

This week, superette owner James Kim told the Herald he was deeply saddened after being told of the news yesterday.

"It's very, very sad."

Mr Kim said their family had known the Fornos for up to 15 years and acknowledged they were a good family within the community.

The crew from the yacht Platino are rescued. Photo / via Facebook
The crew from the yacht Platino are rescued. Photo / via Facebook

A sister of Mr Forno's said through tears: "He was a big man and he had a big heart."

The tug boat Sea Pelican is now towing the stricken yacht Platino back to Auckland after reaching the yacht around 8.35am this morning, north of New Zealand.

Auckland City District Police Operations Manager Inspector Vaughn Graham said the Sea Pelican began towing the yacht back to Auckland about 1pm.

"The yacht appears to be in a reasonable condition.

"At this stage we can't say what the expected arrival time back to New Zealand will be as it's all weather dependent."

Police believe the body of the man recovered and on board Platino was Nick Saull.

Mr Saull, an Auckland boat builder, was remembered by friends as a devoted father and husband who loved the ocean.

Nick Saull and Jan Saull from Red Beach on their wedding day. Photo / Supplied
Nick Saull and Jan Saull from Red Beach on their wedding day. Photo / Supplied

His wife, Jan Saull, was reportedly in a state of shock and wanted to understand exactly what had happened, family friend Mark Readman told the Herald.

"She's just completely shocked ... he was just her world. The family is, as you can imagine, wondering what's happened. It's such a tragedy."

Mr Saull, the director of Brin Wilson Boat Builders, a boat building and repair company -- based in the Gulf Harbour Marina, in Whangaparaoa -- had a passion for the sea and all things water-related, including working as a life guard and teaching young life guards.

Police are now investigating the circumstances of Mr Saull's death on behalf of the Coroner.

- additional reporting Catherine Gaffaney