EIGHT BELLS: Chris Packer

Published on September 8th, 2013

New Zealand and Australian sailor Chris Packer died on 1st September, aged 60, after a long period of disability.

He was a consummate seaman and offshore racer, his first major success being the outright win of the Sydney- Hobart in 1975 with his brother Ron and father Peter in ‘Rampage’, a Ben Lexcen (Bob Miller) designed 40 footer from Perth, Western Australia (they were 3rd in 1973). Later he was to go on to be part of winning Admiral’s Cup teams for Britain, with Ron Amey’s ‘Noryema X’ in 1975, and then as boat skipper for Australia with Peter Cantwell’s ‘Police Car’ in the windy 1979 event. He also competed in the 1974 Transatlantic Race on ‘Noryema IX’.

Chris spent most of his life on the sea. In the mid 70’s he circled the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea in ‘Prince Hal’, an S&S 30. In 1980 he bought an old motor yacht, ‘Sirius’ in the Bahamas and took her across the Pacific to Singapore and rebuilt her. Later he moved to New Zealand where he had farming interests and from where he campaigned his Davidson 55, ‘Starlight Express’. He sailed ‘Starlight Express’ to Hawaii and back three times for the Kenwood Cup and was also took her to Australia on a number of occasions for the Sydney-Hobart and Hamilton Island Race Week.

During the 90’s he was a shareholder and director of Southern Spars. His last great adventure was to buy and fit out a 53m Baltic freighter called ‘Lissa’ which he cruised from the Baltic to the Med to the bottom of South America and then via Peru across the Pacific and on to circumnavigate Australia and New Zealand. This adventure included a three month sojourn in a Bali jail for failing to declare the guns he kept on board for protection against pirates.

It was on ‘Lissa” in Peru that he met his loyal girlfriend Gianna who has looked after him since a heart attack in Fremantle in 2006 left him incapacitated.

His daughter, Kate and son, Jack live in New Zealand.

He lived life to the full. – Hugh Agnew

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