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Pete Waters

Sailing world mourns the loss of Pete Waters

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Pete Waters invariably succeeded at anything he put his mind to - he was a top sailor, rower, rugby player, jazz musician, business owner and husband and father - and even confounded doctors in his fight with skin cancer.

But late last week melanoma succeeded in its battle against Waters. As the family wrote in his death notice printed in the New Zealand Herald, "he gave cancer a good run for its money but it cheated him of his 47th birthday".

Waters was unafraid to share his story with cancer, talking about it in this powerful Melanoma New Zealand video from last year. 

“I should have got that mole on my neck checked and cut out the moment I noticed that it looked different, but I was busy, and I just didn’t realise how serious melanoma is or how fast it can spread," he said. "Once it has flown the nest and spread, there’s no putting it back.   

“Melanoma can strike any of us, and I’m telling my story in the hope that it will help more people understand how deadly serious it is, and that you just can’t delay going to the doctor to get skin changes checked out. The thing about melanoma is that, if you get it early, it can be treated and you can be cured.

“I’ve spent my life working and playing outside and on the water. I wasn’t careful enough when I was younger."

Waters might have been taken by cancer, but it didn't define him. 

He was a successful rower, professional rugby player and played the saxophone in a jazz band but it was in the yachting and boating world that he was probably best known.

Waters owned a marine transportation company - his company was often called on to transport anything from America's Cup boats to superyachts - and also competed at numerous Etchell, Melges 32 and superyacht world championships. He claimed multiple national titles in the Young 88, Farr 1020 and MRX classes and earlier this year was part of the Orion crew who won the 100th Lipton Cup

"He was ultra successful at anything he put his mind to," said friend and crewmate Andrew Wills, who met Waters at a Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron weekend at Kawau Island about 20 years ago.

"He was someone you always wanted on your team. Only 100 percent was good enough. Even if you weren't going to win the regatta, he would make sure you raced hard in that last race.

"He was also as tough as nails. It was quite unbelievable how hard he fought against his cancer and he survived well beyond what doctors expected. That was him to a T. Any less of a person wouldn't have battled as hard as he did and he did it mostly for his family and friends."

Waters is survived by his wife Alicia and three young children, Buster, Moe and Frankie. 

The family often went cruising on their Farr 1020, more often than not alongside other families, and Wills said Waters had an ability to make those around him laugh. 

There was even one time when competing in the Auckland to Fiji race that he raced up from down below to help with a sail change, except that he was naked. Needless to say it was one of the crew's slowest changes given the fact those on board couldn't contain their laughter.

"He was a real character," Wills said. "He still had his sense of humour, even towards the end. 

"He will be sorely missed and will leave a big hole in a lot of people's hearts. He would want people to learn from his experiences with skin cancer but also about giving it your all."

You can learn more about melanoma and where to get skin checks here.