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Search for missing yachtswoman is called off as all hopes finally fade

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 17, 2012

  • This could be the last photo of Seagair, taken by holidaymaker Jenny Gerred in Mousehole on Saturday. Hours later, Mrs Unwin set sail for Bideford

  • Carol Unwin, left, has denied his wife, missing yachtswoman Mary Unwin, right, was an inexperienced sailor

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The search for missing yacht skipper Ona Mary Unwin was called off yesterday as hopes of finding her alive faded.

Wreckage from what is thought to be the 65-year-old's vessel – the Seagair – was discovered on Monday afternoon near Sennen Cove, West Cornwall, three days after Mrs Unwin was last seen.

Fears had been raised locally that Mrs Unwin – who is known by her middle name, Mary – may have ignored warnings about her own capabilities as a sailor, as well as dismissing weather forecasts which predicted difficult sailing conditions.

However her husband, Carol, has denied his wife was an inexperienced sailor.

He told the BBC: "Before she embarked on the trip she had an expert sailor with her, just to brush up on what she knew. He and she were confident about the whole exercise."

Coastguards scoured the shore near Sennen Cove yesterday morning for further signs of the yacht. The effort was called off after nothing was found.

A Falmouth Coastguard spokesman said: "It is approaching 24 hours since the wreckage of the vessel, believed to be the Seagair, was first discovered. For someone to have survived overnight would be something close to a miracle. Mrs Unwin is still a missing person."

Mrs Unwin was the sole person onboard when she left Mousehole on Saturday evening. She had been due to arrive at Bideford, in North Devon, on Monday night, having sailed around Land's End before heading north, but relatives became anxious when she failed to show up.

Lifeboats from Penlee, Sennen and St Ives and helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RMB Chivenor were all involved in the search.

Jerry Hobkirk, owner of Falmouth Yacht Brokers, said he would not have let Mrs Unwin sail had he known she would have ignored his pleas not to set off until the weather had subsided.

He added: "I was amazed when I found out that she had set sail.

"If I had known, we would have stopped her."

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "Officers have already spoken to witnesses regarding the initial purchase of the yacht and events before she set sail.

"The wreckage has yet to be positively identified as being from the Seagair and we would urge members of the public who find any wreckage to contact us or the coastguard."

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