A top Kiwi sailor who died in a gliding accident in Canterbury was once offered a place in Team New Zealand's crew.

Christchurch man Murray Philpott, 55, died in the Ben Ohau Range on Saturday.

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He competed in national and international regattas and had sailed for more than 30 years.

His son Daniel Philpott, who regularly sailed with his dad in an A-class catamaran, said his father got an offer from Team NZ earlier in his career but declined because he wanted to stay in Christchurch.

"Sailing with Dad was crazy. He was always sure of himself.

"My dad was by far the smartest and most confident person I knew."

The 22-year-old said his father was very well liked in the yachting community.

Daniel said his dad had flown a glider in his youth but a few years ago "decided to get back into it ... He fell back in love with it very quickly."

Daniel is following his father, a mechanical engineer, by studying the same degree.

He said the yachting community would have "one hell of a send off" for the sailor.

NZ A Division Catamaran Association president Brent Harsant said

Mr Philpott was one of the association's longest-serving members and a popular man among other sailors.

"It's just tragic news."

The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the crash.