A 70-year-old Auckland man participating in a sailing regatta north of Wellington was wearing a lifejacket that wasn't inflated when he died.

The man fell from a 6.5m sailboat that he was piloting about 10:30am today.

He had been taking part in the Noelex 22 National Championship at Plimmerton and event spokesman Commodore Matt Hipperson said all participants in the event were wearing lifejackets, but this man's lifejacket was not inflated when he fell.

The man was found in the water within 15 minutes, Commodore Hipperson said, after the sailboat had come around to reach him.

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An internal review would be launched, he said."At this point, speaking to our race officials, everything was in place - there were no safety issues and the weather was good.

"We're still in a bit of a state of shock."

It was unknown whether the man had drowned, or had suffered a medical event.

The three-day event and prize giving were cancelled as soon as the incident happened.

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