TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Stephen Ward from South Cerney returned home in August 1991, after surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Gibraltar.

“I got woken up at 4am and went straight up on deck,” Stephen said. “One of the sails had ripped and a lot of water had got onto the deck. 

“We tried pumping the water out for over an hour. But eventually we were forced to send out flares and abandon ship.”

The crew of 12 had to wait for 20 minutes in a tiny life craft on a stormy sea to be rescued.

After enjoying a three-month working holiday in Rhodes, Stephen was intending to head home – but not like this, with starkly empty pockets.

His money, passport and possessions all went down with the ship. 
All Stephen managed to salvage from the schooner was a small piece of rope as a memento and his photographs. 

But he still felt that he hadn’t been handed the worst deal. “I felt really sorry for the Swedish captain,” Stephen said. 

“The schooner was a beautiful boat which had been in use since 1913, it meant everything to him.”

And the traumatic experience wasn’t going to stop Stephen getting back out on the water.

“I’ve done a lot of sailing in the South Cerney lakes ever since my dad introduced me to the sport as a child. It would take more than this to put me off,” he said.

Stephen only planned to stay dry on land until he had saved enough money to head off on his next sailing adventure – a trip to the Caribbean.

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