Photos from a sea rescue in Northland show the harrowing conditions the three survivors battled in as they waited for help - as one of their group had already died.

The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter service has released images of their crew heading out to the area, north of Cape Brett, after a yacht sank yesterday afternoon.

The images show choppy seas - the white-foamed waves indicating how rough conditions were - and what those on the sunken yacht faced; as well as what rescuers had to deal with while winching everyone into the helicopter.

A lone orange liferaft can be spotted in the water.

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The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew was called to the incident after being asked for assistance from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

"An Air Force P3 Orion was also tasked and dropped a liferaft to the patients, then kept watch over the helicopter rescue,'' a spokesman said.

When the crew arrived, two people were in the water and two were in the liferaft, he said.

A lone orange liferaft is seen in the choppy conditions. Photo / AWRH
A lone orange liferaft is seen in the choppy conditions. Photo / AWRH
Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew members called to a sea rescue near Cape Brett yesterday. Photo / AWRH
Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew members called to a sea rescue near Cape Brett yesterday. Photo / AWRH

A woman in her 50s was in a critical condition and two men in a moderate condition.

"Unfortunately, one other male patient was deceased.

The dead man has since been identified as well-known Tauranga sailor and local Act Party candidate Stuart Pedersen.

ACT Party leader David Seymour said its members were in a state of shock after the news.

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Rough conditions at a sea rescue near Cape Brett yesterday. Photo / AWRH
Rough conditions at a sea rescue near Cape Brett yesterday. Photo / AWRH
Choppy conditions out at a sea rescue near Cape Brett yesterday. Photo / AWRH
Choppy conditions out at a sea rescue near Cape Brett yesterday. Photo / AWRH

He called Pedersen an "incredibly kind and hospitable man".

All four people were winched into the helicopter by a dedicated intensive care paramedic.

Yesterday, the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club confirmed the identities of those on board to Sunlive.

'PRAY FOR PEACE, COMFORT AND RECOVERY'

Pedersen was a club member along with another man on board, Bruce Goodwin. The other two survivors were Pedersen's wife, Pamela, and her brother-in-law Steve.

Both surviving men have been discharged from hospital. However, Pedersen's wife remains in a critical condition.

Freedom Church - where Goodwin attends - called for its members to pray for peace, comfort and recovery after the tragedy.

"Please pray for Bruce Goodwin, a member of our church, and for the rest of the crew who were involved in a tragic sailing accident.

"Sadly, one crew member lost their life and one is now in critical care. Bruce has been released from hospital, but is understandably in shock".

The church also revealed that the group of friends had been returning on the yacht from Fiji when disaster struck.

"We are praying for peace, comfort and recovery''.

They were then airlifted to Northland Emergency Service Trust's Kensington Park Base in Whāngārei.

The woman was then taken to hospital in an ambulance.