`He just wanted to sail all the time'

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The Independent Online
GLYN CHARLES cancelled plans to return home to Britain for Christmas so that he could compete in the race in which he is feared to have lost his life.

His mother, Margaret Charles, said that her son had postponed a trip back to Hampshire after being given a last-minute opportunity to take part in the Sydney to Hobart race.

Last night, as the search for Mr Charles was abandoned, members of the sailing community spoke about about their shock and sorrow at what had happened.

Mr Charles's Olympic coach, Rod Carr, in Australia with the rest of the team, said: "He was so keen on sailing. He just wanted to sail all the time, and he was always up for a race."

Mr Charles was asked to join the Sydney to Hobart race by his fellow yachtsman Steve Kulmar, with whom he had sailed for Australia in the 1997 Admiral's Cup. His mother recalled his last words to her in a phone call on Christmas Eve. "He phoned to say he was setting off in a few hours. He felt it was an opportunity. I always said if something happened to Glyn at sea I'd feel he was doing what he loved," she said.

"He has been dedicated to sailing since he was boy and it was wonderful that he achieved his great ambition by competing in the l996 Olympics. We shall miss him terribly and his great enthusiasm for everything. He was a wonderful son."

Mr Charles was an experienced yachtsman who had taken part in four Admiral's Cup events. In the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta he came 11th in the Star Class with his partner, George Skoudas.

Mr Carr said that the accident had cut short a career that was reaching a new maturity and had 10 productive years to run. As well as his Olympic aspirations, Mr Charles had been skippering an Ultra-30 yacht and was in demand both as tactician and helmsman on the international circuit.

Born in Wales on 4 September 1965, he had come to prominence as a 21- year-old in the single-handed Laser Class, winning the national championship a year later.

In 1988 and 1992, he tried for the British Olympic place in the three- man Soling event, only to be pipped by Lawrie Smith. But he turned the tables on Mr Smith in the two-man Star Class for the 1996 Games.

Mr Carr said that Mr Charles was intense, sensitive, enthusiastic, but above all honest, with a highly developed sense of fair play. His coach described him as one of the outstanding yachtsmen of his generation.

Two other yachtsmen have died in the storm and another three are missing, feared drowned.