Round-the-world sailor Les Powles dies aged 96

HE WAS the round-the-world sailor who survived against all odds after disappearing in the South Atlantic.

The Powles, who died aged 96, failed to get in touch for several months and friends feared his solo journey could end in disaster.

But he eventually returned to Hampshire and was given a free place for life in recognition of his miraculous return.

The Powles are celebrating their 90th birthday. Photo: Mark Redpath.

Les was attempting to complete his third trip around the world when he went missing and was presumed drowned.

However, the former Yachtsman of the Year ended his epic journey after managing to survive on small amounts of rice, rainwater and corned beef.

Les became an instant celebrity when his battered boat, Solitaire, limped off Lymington on July 6, 1996.

Daily Echo: The Powles have been granted a free place for life at Lymington Yacht Haven. The Powles got a free lifetime berth at Lymington Yacht Haven.

An office in Lymington Yacht Haven became a makeshift broadcast studio as he took calls from radio stations around the world.

Time and time again, he told how he clung to life after being knocked out for six hours in a ferocious storm that damaged his radio and nearly sank his yacht.

In the weeks since his return, the emaciated figure has seen his weight increase by more than three stones.

Speaking to the Daily Echo at the time, he said: “All I wanted to do after so long on starvation rations at sea was eat, eat, eat.

“When I first came back, I used to get congratulatory hugs and kisses on the street from women I had never seen before. Now people don’t know if it’s me because I gained so much weight.”

Daily Echo: Les Powles circumnavigated the globe on his yacht Solitaire.  Photo: Mark Redpath.Les Powles sailed around the world on his yacht Solitaire. Photo: Mark Redpath.

Yacht Haven bosses greeted Les by allowing him to live on his boat at the marina for as long as he wanted.

He said: “When I give a lecture and tell people that I have been given a free place for life, everyone in the room stands up and applauds.”

Les suffered a stroke a few months ago and moved into a nursing home in Lymington.

Becki Jackson, Office Manager at Yacht Paradise, said: “Les was a kind-hearted gentleman and extremely generous with his time.

“He frequently invited friends and visitors aboard his beloved yacht, Solitaire, and told his stories of his three circumnavigations.”