Peter Lester competing, not commentating, on the water at World Masters Games

Peter Lester is back on the water, but he's not commentating.
Alistair Deaves

Peter Lester is back on the water, but he's not commentating.

He might be more recognisable as a yachting commentator these days but Peter Lester wouldn't mind if people were talking about his exploits during the World Masters Games in Auckland.

The 61-year-old has a good pedigree on the water. He's a former OK Dinghy world champion and two-time New Zealand Yachtsman of the Year and also won the Admirals, One Ton and Kenwood Cups and competed in three America's Cup campaigns.

He says he's entering the World Masters Games to "have a bit of fun" and hopes that "if I can get through every day, I will be happy" but those who know Lester says he's intensely competitive.

Lester will compete in the grand master (55-64 years) Laser class at the regatta, which is being hosted by the Torbay Yacht Club starting on Sunday, and will be up against the likes of former Laser national champion Murray Thom, who also won the 2005 world Laser masters championships in Brazil.

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"If I can finish in the top 10, I would be absolutely delighted," said Lester, who bought a second-hand Laser late last year. "Some of the guys have put an enormous amount of time into it.

"It's a good excuse to go out and do a bit of yachting in New Zealand. When something like this happens in this country, you'd be crazy not to enter.  I really enjoy the camaraderie and physically still be able to sail a dinghy at my age. I'm sure there will be a few tales of how good we used to be."

Lester was one of the world's best. He was probably best known for being tactician aboard KZ1 for New Zealand's 1988 America's Cup big boat campaign, a role he also performed for Chris Dickson's Tag Heuer Challenge in 1995.

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He also worked as a sailing consultant or coach, helping nations like South Korea, Qatar and Turkey, and was also Yachting New Zealand high performance manager.

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He finished sailing professionally only four years ago following a stint racing on the TP52 circuit for a Turkish team.

"The reality is that, once your use-by-date is up, it's up," he said. "I was bloody lucky to be able to do it for all the years I did."

He was also able to do it while working as a commentator. He was coach of the Spanish entry in the 1992 America's Cup and, when they were eliminated, he joined the TVNZ commentary team for the rest of the Cup. He's since gone on to work at subsequent America's Cup and it's a fair bet his voice will be on the airwaves from Bermuda in May and June.

It's also likely it will be piping up during racing at the World Masters Games. The Laser is one of three classes being raced at the Games, along with the Laser Radial and Weta, and a handful of former Olympians, America's Cup sailors and veterans of the Volvo Ocean Race, including Rex Sellers, Tony Rae, Dan Slater, Chris Sharp and Andrew May will line up.

Lester admits the Laser can be a handful and it's taken time for him to feel comfortable in the boat.

"I have done a lot of swimming," he admitted, "especially pre-Christmas when it was blowing hard. Initially it was a bit of a culture shock but I'm getting more used to it."

We'll know later this month if he can add another entry onto his illustrious sailing CV.

 - Stuff

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