Michael Quilter, Navigator from Beau Geste won the Gary Francis Memorial Navigator’s Award at ANZ Sail Fiji.

Here is some background on this prize.

ANZ Sail Fiji Finish 11/6/14 - Line honors winner: Beau Geste / Karl Kwok RHKYC. Photo: © Brad Davies / RAYC Media

ANZ Sail Fiji Finish 11/6/14 – Line honors winner: Beau Geste / Karl Kwok RHKYC. Photo: © Brad Davies / RAYC Media

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From the Bay Chronicle.

THE Kerikeri Cruising Club is honouring one of its own.

The Gary Francis Memorial Navigators’ Award will be presented to the navigator aboard the winning boat in the ANZ Sail Fiji Auckland to Fiji ocean race..

It is named after a former club commodore who died on April 12 – two years after being airlifted unconscious from the boat he was navigating in the same race upon its return to New Zealand.

Son Brendon Francis, says his dad was a humble man who would have quietly taken pride in the award.

“He was keen as for sailing and it was pretty much his life – other than us,” he says.

Cruising club members Dave Keen, Ray Hasler and Mark Beauchamp organised the award to honour their friend in a meaningful way and tie it in with the vital role a navigator plays in any race.

“This is a first,” Keen says.

“The guy who steers it there gets all the accolades.

“But the navigator, he gets them there.” Hasler and Gary Francis sailed the Auckland to Fiji race twice.

Beauchamp and Keen delivered the trophy to The Royal Akarana Yacht Club in Auckland before the boats left.

Gary Francis competed in his last Auckland to Fiji ocean race two years ago.

“And he didn’t make it back. He was airlifted off the boat, unconscious,” Andrew says.

“That’s when we found out he was sick.” Gary Francis was airlifted to Whangarei where a CT scan showed a bleed on the brain and he was rushed to Auckland for surgery.

“They didn’t think he would wake up, they removed a mass between the size of a golf ball and a lemon,’’ Andrew says. ‘‘And the next morning he was awake, pulling tubes out, trying to talk.’’ Ten days later the pathology results came back and the family learned Gary Francis had a very aggressive form of cancer.

The surveyor, entrepreneur and mad keen sailor came to Kerikeri in 1985 and is survived by his wife Laurie, the twins and his son Evan.

Andrew says having the award named in her dad’s honour was “very, very humbling”.

“He’d be proud of it and he’d play it down,” she says.

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