Sailor and yacht builder Philip Walwyn has been found dead off the Cornish coast after sailing his 12-Metre 'Kate' from the Azores

Philip Walwyn has died after he was found seriously injured in the water a short distance before he reached Falmouth at the end of a transatlantic voyage from Nova Scotia via the Azores. The alarm was raised when the 12-Metre yacht he had built was discovered with the sails set but no-one aboard near Coverack Cove in Cornwall, a short distance from Falmouth.

The coastguard launched a search for the missing sailor shortly after 1345 on Monday 3 August,  which involved three lifeboats, a helicopter and a Coastguard Rescue Team. In the event, another sailor found Mr Walwyn in the water at 1710 and recovered him aboard his yacht, from where he was airlifted to hosptial. Mr Walwyn was pronounced dead a short time later.

In an initial statement on Monday evening, the Coastguard said:

A search for a missing yachtsman who was travelling from the Azores to Falmouth has now been suspended after a person was found in the water during a search between the Lizard and Coverack. The person was taken to hospital in a very serious condition.

The alarm was raised with the UK Coastguard at 13.45 today [Monday 3 August] after another vessel discovered the 50ft yacht with its sails up and no-one on board.

Lizard and Falmouth RNLI all weather lifeboats, Falmouth RNLI inshore lifeboat, a rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose, the Porthoustock Coastguard Rescue Team and locals yachts searched an area north-east of The Lizard after the yacht was discovered unmanned and going around in circles.

Kate was towed into Coverack Cove by the RNLI

Kate was towed into Coverack Cove by the RNLI. Credit: Zoe Holmes/Bay Hotel

After the discovery of the yacht and the recovery of Mr Walywn, Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed that the sailor had died:

Police were alerted by the Coastguard at 3.20pm on Monday 3 August following the discovery of a 50ft yacht with no-one on board in the harbour at Coverack Cove, Helston. Falmouth Coastguard commenced an air and sea search to locate the missing sailor believed to have been aboard.

At 5.10pm the body of man was located in the sea just off Chynalls Point near Coverack by another sailor and he was recovered aboard his yacht. The man was airlifted by a rescue helicopter and taken to Treliske Hospital where he was pronounced deceased a short time later.

The man is aged 68 and from Yorkshire. It is believed he was the only person aboard the yacht. Next of kin have been informed.

The death is not being treated as suspicious but police enquiries continue as to how the man came to be in the water. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has been informed.

The circumstances of the incident are not yet know, pending investigations by the Police and the MAIB. According to Paul Schofield, cousin of Mr Walwyn’s wife Katie, it is not yet known whether Philip was wearing a lifejacket or not. According to reports received by the family, Kate had been spotted about 15 miles off Falmouth earlier in the day and Philip had been on board at that point.

‘There is likely to be some sort of inquest or post mortem, which we hope will tell us more,’ said Schofield.

Mr Walwyn’s sister, Susie Walwyn,  told the BBC earlier that, ‘This was going to be his last voyage across the Atlantic’.

He had previously completed 16 transatlatic trips, five of them singlehanded and often in boats he had built himself. Kate is a replica of the 1908 12-Metre yacht Javotte, designed by Alfred Mylne. With a length on deck of 60ft, she had recently been converted to a yawl rig to make her easier to handle for short-handed offshore sailing. She was built from Douglas fir and mahogany strip planking, laminated with epoxy.

Credit: Zoe Holmes/Bay Hotel

Credit: Zoe Holmes/Bay Hotel

Kate had been fitted out as close to the original as possible, without an engine, or fitted electronics. He was carrying only handheld VHF and GPS units for this latest crossing. He set off from Nova Scotia on 22 July. Three days into the passage, he had experienced very heavy weather over the Grand Banks and his self-steering gear had been damaged. He then hand steered to Horta in the Azores, where he fixed his steering gear, and after a week, set off once more, heading for Falmouth. Kate was discovered near Coverack, just outside Falmouth.


Kate, rigged as a gaff yawl

Walwyn was based in St Kitts, where his family had lived for over 300 years, originally as plantation owners. He was married to artist Kate Spencer, who moved to St Kitts from Yorkshire in 1978.

St Kitts Yacht Club, where Walwyn was based, and from where he began his passage to Nova Scotia, mourned the loss of one of their members via an online statement:

It is with great sadness that we bring this news to you today, of the passing of a great man; a legend in his own right.

We say goodbye to one of the world’s utmost sailing icons, and our past Commodore, Philip Walwyn.

Philip is a man that has come into so many peoples lives and has given his heart and soul to everyone and everything he’s ever encountered.

We all give thanks to Philip, to his knowledge and his love of the ocean. Philip will always be remembered for his heroism, his honor and his very witty sense of humor.

Philip, you have touched so many people worldwide…thank you. Woop Woop!

Tributes were also being paid on Mr Walwyn’s Facebook page Where’s Walwyn?

To the man, the myth, the legend that is and always will be Philip Walwyn. A man that touched so many people’s hearts and souls, a man that is. Thank you Philip for all of your dancing to foxes and cross dressing and throwing glasses at the precise moment. Thank you for making all of our lives fuller, you will be very missed.