World Sailor of the Year pays tribute to Don Brown

Mike Sanderson, New Zealand, male winner ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2006
2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Mike Sanderson (NZL) paid tribute to Don St Clair Brown, at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, this afternoon.

Sanderson was skipper of ABN Amro One, winner of the 2005/06 Volvo Ocean Race.

Speaking to a gathering of around 450 of New Zealand's top sailors of the past 50 years, Sanderson told how St Clair Brown had introduced him to keelboat sailing and offshore racing aboard Brown's 50fter Anticipation.

Sanderson told how he had inherited a photo of Anticipation surfing down a wave off Hawaii from his grandfather, Gerald Brown, who had been a boyhood and lifelong friend of St Clair Brown. 'That photo still is on my wall as being the beginning for me into sailing.'

'From then on, I followed Anticipation in every newspaper, every magazine, and everywhere I went.

'One day we sailed into Tutukaka harbour abroad a Sabre 22, there she was - Anticipation. Just the biggest thing I had ever seen. I was totally overawed.

' I was seven or eight years old at the time. Don asked if I wanted to sail down to Auckland on her. To this day I can still remember how excited I was then, and how much this trip meant to me.

Sanderson told how he rowed his parents back to their yacht, dropped them off, them rowed back to Anticipation 'tied' the dinghy astern and went below.

A couple of minutes later there was an expletive roared from above as Brown noticed that the dinghy had 'untied' itself and was adrift. One of the girls aboard dived over the side to retrieve the drifting dinghy.

'Don then taught me how to tie a bowline, and even today I still tie the knot the way he taught me,' Sanderson recalled. 'I also learned that a clove hitch is a pretty good way of tying up a dinghy', he added.

Anticipation on which a young Mike Sanderson cut his ocean racing teeth
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'There was no doubt this trip was what headed me down the path that was to become my sailing career. From that day onward, my goal was to find a way to get people to pay me to go yacht racing.

'On that trip were a couple of very special moments when Don would pass on what seemed to be very simple comments, which have stuck with me forever. Firstly he said: Michael, if you want someone to listen to you, the quieter you should speak.

'Second, 'Michael, Anticipation is the name of the game.' No truer words could be spoken about what it takes to win offshore races.

ABN Amro One skippered by Mike Sanderson flies past the Lizard, winning six of the nine trans-oceanic legs in the 2005/06 Volvo Ovean race
Volvo Ocean Race/Oskar Kihlborg

'Sailing from then on with the guys on 'Ants' was a highlight as I grew up. I used to be given the task of endless pumping of the backstay which seemed to take me all the way to the top mark - only to have Don turn around, turn the valve, and see all the pressure run out. The noise of that is still with me in my head.

'I think I can safely say that there hasn't been a single New Zealand sailor, who has represented New Zealand, who hasn't been touched in some way by the kind heartedness and hard work of Don St Clair Brown.

'So much of what he has done has set us up on the right road, and he will be steering us in the right direction forever. All I can say from everyone here is thank you.

Footnote: Through later marriage, Don St Clair Brown became Mike Sanderson's grandfather.

Mementos from a lifetime of sailing - Don St Clair Brown (1914-2008)