Corinthian sailor Les Powles who successfully sailed solo around the world three times during the 1970s and ‘80s and was a recipient of the British Yachtsman of the Year award, has passed away, aged 96.

An engineer, Powles began to crave the freedom of the sea in the 1970s, and spent his life savings building his 34ft yacht Solitaire.

Recklessly, he set off to cross the Atlantic in 1975 with only eight hours sailing experience.

He was heading for the Caribbean, but poor navigational led him to land in Brazil.

Yachtsman of the Year 1981, Les Powles. Credit: PPL Photo Agency

Les Powles. Credit: PPL Photo Agency

Sailing on a shoestring budget, he set out on his first non-stop circumnavigation without a radio transmitter, and did not speak to another person for 329 days.

Towards the end of his second, non-stop voyage in 1980-81, Les struggled with hunger and survived only on rainwater, a few spoonfuls of rice and quarter tin of meat per day.

On his third eight-year voyage in the late 1980s he was given up for dead, but surprised everyone when he returned to Lymington four months after setting sail from New Zealand.

He had lost five stone and hardly had the strength to lift the sail.

Lymington Yacht Haven marina gave Powles a free berth for life and until very recently, he was still living aboard Solitaire.

His book, Solitaire Spirit, retold his life story and circumnavigations.

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With publication of his book, telling his life story and circumnavigations, Powles received unsolicited letters from all over the world congratulating him for his unpretentious pioneering spirit and the inspiration he provided.

Once his sailing days were over, he was once asked “Do you miss the open sea?”

He answered: “I’m completely satisfied with what I’ve got.”

Yachtsman of the Year 1981, Les Powles. Credit: Peter Smailes/ PPL Photo Agency

Yachtsman of the Year 1981 Les Powles. Credit: Peter Smailes/ PPL Photo Agency

Powles’ funeral will be held at Romsey Crematorium on Tuesday 15 March at 12.15pm, followed by a wake at Lymington Town Sailing Club at 2.30pm.

His next of kin have kindly extended an invite to all to attend.