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Family's hope for missing sailor Mary Unwin
THE family of a former Upton-upon-Severn woman whose yacht was discovered wrecked off the Cornwall coast are hoping against all the odds that she will be found alive.
Searches for 65-year-old Ona Unwin – known by her middle name Mary – continued yesterday after the remains of her vessel the Seagair were discovered the previous afternoon, with coastguards admitting it would be “close to a miracle” to find her alive.
But although her brother-in- law Guy Unwin, managing director of Malvern firm Planit Products, fears the worst, he said the family had not given up hope.
“These are difficult times, particularly for (her husband) Carol,” he said. “Realistically, there does not seem much chance that she will turn up but we have to keep hoping they find her.”
Mrs Unwin set sail alone from Mousehole in Cornwall on Saturday evening, heading for her home in Bideford, North Devon.
She only bought the yacht last week, shortly after re-marrying her millionaire husband, and ignored warnings about her own capabilities as a sailor, as well as difficult weather conditions.
Mrs Unwin was Royal Navy trained and had brushed up with an expert before setting off.
But Jerry Hobkirk, owner of Falmouth Yacht Brokers, said he would not have let Mrs Unwin sail had he known she would ignore his pleas to wait until the weather had subsided.
He also advised her to embark on a sailing refresher course before taking to the water.
He added: “I was amazed when I found out that she had set sail. If I had known, we would have stopped her. There were strong winds and rough seas on a piece of coast that has very few escape routes. Her husband also tried to dissuade her from taking to the water but Mrs Unwin had always been “headstrong” and insisted on going ahead.
“We’re all a bit taken aback by the circumstances,” said Mr Unwin. “She got things into her head and was determined to do things her own way.” News of the incident has shocked people in Upton, where Mrs Unwin spent more than 10 years.
She first lived in Church Cottages, on the Waterside, later moving to her husband’s family home in Longdon. They moved to Bideford in 2008.
Upton postmaster Paul Twist remembered Mrs Unwin from when she worked in the town post office.
“She was a lively character and it was sad and a real shock to hear this news,” he said.
Councillor Mike Morgan, who represents Upton on Malvern Hills District Council, said: “She was always very determined and one of those very full of life type of characters. It was quite a shock to hear the news and out thoughts are with Carol and the family.”
His wife Barbara said Mrs Unwin was often spotted around town in her striking sports car.
“She was always very keen to get involved in things and happy to roll up her sleeves,” she said. “She was a very strong, formidable character and if she wanted to do something then she would go ahead and do it.
“It’s quite hard to come to terms with what has happened.”
A Falmouth Coastguard spokesman said Mrs Unwin was still classed as a missing person. But he warned: “ For someone to have survived overnight would be something close to a miracle.”