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John Lusk

Tributes flow for 'unsung hero' John Lusk

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John Lusk is being remembered as one of the "unsung heroes of New Zealand yachting" who made significant contributions at all levels of the sport, from grassroots through to the America's Cup.

The tributes flowed immediately after Lusk passed away peacefully last week after a battle with dementia.

He was a renowned commercial lawyer and family man who also had a passion for sailing and boating. 

Lusk was chair of the Steinlager Challenge Trust Board, overseeing Sir Peter Blake's winning Around Australia Steinlager 1 campaign and the subsequent Steinlager 2 Whitbread campaign when Blake won all six legs of the 1989-90 race.

Lusk was also involved as a director for Grant Dalton's successful NZ Endeavour Whitbread campaign in 1994-94.

On top of that, Lusk became one of the founding directors of Team New Zealand in 1993 ahead of their successful 1995 America's Cup campaign and subsequent home defence five years later.

One of the legacies of that 2000 campaign was the establishment of Yachting New Zealand's Sailing... Have a Go! programme, borne out of Blake's vision that every young Kiwi would have the chance to try sailing. Lusk played a leading hand in making this happen and the programme has since seen more than 40,000 children have a go at sailing when they might not have had the chance.

Lusk's influence didn't stop there because he was also a trustee and long-time chair of the NZL Sailing Foundation, who have supported amateur New Zealand sailors competing in top level international regattas since 1988.

"He is, in my mind, one of the absolute unsung heroes of New Zealand yachting," said Yachting New Zealand chair and former Team New Zealand chief executive Ross Blackman. "He had very little profile but was a very steady hand and well-considered advisor.

"There were many times at Team New Zealand when things got heated and we wanted to take things to court. He would always calm the situation down and advise us against legal action, saying it takes two to have an argument and that we just needed to work things through. He was amazing that way and a very calming influence."

Mark Orams, who was a member of the winning crew on Steinlager 2 and is now a trustee of the NZ Sailing Trust, echoed those thoughts.

"John Lusk was a wonderful human being," Orams wrote on Facebook. "[He was] a quiet giver who provided calm, wise counsel, [and] who volunteered his time behind the scenes to allow others to be successful. He did this for many decades."

A funeral to celebrate Lusk's life will be held at 2.30pm on Thursday, May 26, at St Mary's-in-Holy Trinity Cathedral, on the corner of Parnell Road and St Stephens Avenue.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate a donation to Dementia Auckland that can be made online here or forwarded to PO Box 5132, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142.