Well-known Tauranga sailor and local Act Party candidate Stuart Pedersen has been identified as the victim of the fatal yachting accident in Northland.

Pedersen died after a yacht he and three others were in sank north of Cape Brett yesterday.

ACT Party leader David Seymour said members of his party were in a state of shock following the news.

He said Pedersen was an "incredibly kind and hospitable man", who had the most "giving heart".

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The party were all thinking of Pedersen's wife Pamela at this time and would provide support in any way they could, he said.

BOP Act candidate Bruce Carley said Pedersen and him were "very good friends". Both within politics and outside of.

He said Pedersen was an "excellent sailor" and volunteered a lot of his spare time helping train budding young sailors.

He had a fond memory of election day two years ago, where they "couldn't talk politics in public" - so they headed out on his yacht for a day.

Pedersen would "never put anyone in danger". His voice cracked as he said "he would have died making sure he saved the lives of his wife Pamela and loved ones."

Former club commodore Nick Wrinch and other club members found out of Pedersen's death last night.

"It's just tragic. We are just gutted. It's just horrible news. We all knew Stuart. He was a guy we all wanted a lot to do with.

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"He was always there. The stuff he did for the kids was fantastic. He had huge energy and vision. He was just great.

"It's a big loss."

Past secretary of the Port Ohope Yacht Club Sally Reid said Pedersen was a "humble man" who was enthusiastic about getting young people out on to the water.

She said over the years, Pedersen had made a "huge difference" to the small club by helping fund boats for their junior sailors.

"Nothing was ever a problem for him... he was just an amazing guy."

Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club confirmed in a statement that the man who died was club member Stuart Pedersen.

"You may have seen news reports about a yacht which sank earlier today off Cape Brett, with one sailor dead, and another three in hospital in serious condition," says the club in the statement.

"My information is that the deceased sailor is one of our leading club members, tornado sailor and chairman of BOPSAT, Stuart Pedersen.

"Fellow club member Bruce Goodwin, Stuart's wife Pamela and Pamela's brother-in-law Steve are the survivors.

"Bruce and Steve have been released from hospital but unfortunately, Pamela is still in intensive care."

The New Zealand Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre received a distress call from the occupants of the 47-foot yacht floundering in choppy seas, about 20km north of Cape Brett, about 1pm on Monday.

Communication from the four sailors said they were abandoning their vessel, having lost their liferaft in the 5 to 6m swells and 40- to 50-knot gusts.

The Orion located the four people in the water around 2.47pm and dropped a raft, before the Westpac Rescue Helicopter winched them up, but one of the people died.

One sailor was in a critical condition while two others were moderate.

Investigations on what caused the yacht to sink and where the sailors were heading to are ongoing.

A statement from the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter said crews were tasked by the Rescue Coordination Centre to assist with the search and rescue.

It said an Air Force P3 Orion was also tasked and dropped a life raft to the patients, then
kept watch over the helicopter rescue.

When Westpac 1 arrived, two persons were in the water and two were in the life raft.

All four patients were winched aboard Westpac 1 by an Intensive Care Paramedic and then flown to Whangarei.

Westpac 3's HEMS Doctor took over on Westpac 1's return and escorted the female patient by ambulance to hospital.

A Northland District Health Board spokeswoman said one person remained in Whangarei Hospital in a stable condition.

The other two people had been treated and discharged from hospital, she said.