Lymington pro-sailor drowned after night out in Barcelona, inquest told

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Zane Gills
Zane Gills had a home in Lymington (Photo: Sarah Gills)

A PROFESSIONAL sailor drowned in Spain after falling overboard following a night of heavy drinking, an inquest heard.

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Zane Gills (36), an Australian who had a home in Lymington with wife Sarah, had been visiting his brother Kristyn in Barcelona when the accident occurred on 27th December last year.

The inquest at Winchester Coroner’s Court heard how Kristyn was the captain of Baiurdo VI, on which Zane had been staying, moored in Port Vell harbour in Barcelona.

The night before he died, the brothers had been for dinner at Las Ramblas and drunk beer, rum and gin before returning to the boat at about 1.30am.

Kristyn, speaking via video link, told the hearing that his brother was “quite intoxicated” and he had physically helped him back on to the boat, leaving him to sleep on the deck.

A report from the Marine Safety Investigation Unit in Valletta, Malta, where the yacht was registered, said it had previously sailed from Cannes, France. The 34-metre yacht was moored stern on, with a gap of six to seven metres between each boat.

Port Vell in Barcelona seen from the top of Columbus Monument (Photo: stock image)

The inquest heard that at around 7.15am on 27th December Zane was found missing from his cabin. By midday, he was still not onboard and calls to his mobile went unanswered. At 2pm the police were alerted and divers found Mr Gills’ body under the yacht in the early hours.

The report stated that the sea had been “flat and calm” on the day of his death. A post mortem examination in Spain stated Mr Gill had drowned.

A statement from Zane’s GP, Dr Elizabeth Pugh, said he had “no significant problems” on his medical records, although he had suffered a “funny turn” in May 2018 when he blacked out while watching television.

Zane underwent an MRI scan and had a 24-hour cardiac tape fitted to monitor his heart, which showed no abnormalities.

The inquest also heard how Zane had been wearing a Garmin smartwatch which recorded his heart rate. Data from the device revealed his heart rate had been normal at 6am on the morning he died, before peaking between 6.34am and 6.36am and then becoming unmeasurable.

The inquest heard how Sarah flew out to Barcelona after learning of her husband’s disappearance.

In a statement read to the hearing she said Zane was not a good drinker and would “become floppy and incoherent”.

Coroner Jason Pegg said marks on the yacht’s stern indicated that Zane had unsuccessfully tried to reboard the yacht from the water.

He said the cause of the sailor’s unwitnessed fall was unclear, although he had been “fairly heavily intoxicated” and alcohol had contributed his death. He concluded the death was accidental.

Originally from the Australian island of Tasmania, Zane was a pro-sailor who took on some of the biggest world sailing events, including the demanding Volvo Ocean Race in which he made his debut as bowman in 2011 with Team Telefónica.

During his stays back in Lymington between sailing trips, he was known to play on the wing as an amateur rugby player for the Lymington Mariners. The club held a minute’s silence for him after his death.

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