Windsurfer’s death in Hayling ‘felt across world’ as tributes paid

Langstone Harbour viewed from the Hayling Billy Trail. Picture: Paul Jacobs (143313-3)
Langstone Harbour viewed from the Hayling Billy Trail. Picture: Paul Jacobs (143313-3)
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ONE of the last people to see a windsurfer alive has told of his final moments.

Instructor Danielle Lucas was with her partner Phil Richards who was teaching a class off Hayling Island near the Esso petrol station when she spoke to the man, in his 50s.

He was not part of the class but experienced windsurfer Danielle paddled out to give him some tips.

She said: ‘He was there with his mate practising, they were staying within the bay and having a lovely time.

‘It was really gentle waters.

‘He was quite new to the sport, he was really loving it.

‘When he got there he was saying it was lovely weather.

‘He said he spent all week thinking about it.

‘He was so excited to be there – it’s crazy that it was his last session.

‘But it’s nice he was so happy to be there.’

Danielle, 30, and Phil, 29, left the area at about midday – just 15 minutes before the man was found.

Dinghy sailors spotted the man, who has not been named, face down in the water after seeing windsurfing gear.

They dragged him on board the boat and took him to the shore off Victoria Road.

Portsmouth Lifeboat Station reported that he suffered a cardiac arrest.

An onlooker told The News emergency crews tried to resuscitate the man on the beach. Coastguard crew on board the helicopter from Lee-on-the-Solent attended along with the Hayling Island Coastguard Rescue Team, three RNLI lifeboats – one from Portsmouth and two from Hayling Island.

He was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham but was pronounced dead.

Windsurfers preparing to go into the same water yesterday said the death was rare.

David Libby, from the island, said: ‘There’s a very strong community because it’s a minority sport.

‘This will be felt throughout the world. It’s not an easy sport to learn, the people who do it are very dedicated.’

Experienced windsurfers said Saturday’s weather was not ideal for the sport as it was not particularly windy.

Antony Todd, 42, from Swindon, was down at the site yesterday waiting to go in.

He said: ‘This is probably the safest place to sail.

‘We all look out for each other, people are always watching.’

He added the harbour has a natural barrier stopping people from going adrift if they run into difficulties.

People have posted tributes on The News Facebook page and on windsurfing forum websites.

Matt Rollestone said: ‘Such sad news just before Christmas... windsurf in peace.’