THIS is one of the last pictures taken of the Banbridge man who died while competing in a sailing regatta in north Wales last month.

Timothy Atkinson (49) was an experienced sailor who had been participating in the Laser 4000 National Championships in Abersoch on July 30 when his boat capsized and he became trapped underwater.

Last week his sisters Wendy and Gail told The Leader their brother had a passion for the ocean and had died doing what he loved best.

Timothy's sister Gail McGuffin said: "The minister who took the funeral service, the Rev Colin Harris of Clare Presbyterian Church, said Timothy would probably have wanted to go doing exactly that, only 30 years later."

Gail's twin sister Wendy added that her brother, who retired in January after 30 years serving as a police officer, had a zest for life with many plans for the future.

Timothy had planned to take his ten-year-old daughter Jane to Spain on holiday this week to visit his sister Wendy and her partner John.

Wendy said: "Sailing was all he talked about but he didn't have much time when he was working so he was looking forward to sailing more once he retired. He came out to us for a week in May but stayed for three. He spent every day on the beach."

The family said Timothy was a very strong swimmer and a qualified scuba diver who had applied to complete a six-month Ocean Master Course which would allow him to skipper yachts sailing around the world.

Last summer he had been part of a six-man crew which sailed from Greece to Northern Ireland and since his retirement he had started teaching sailing to young people with learning difficulties and had been involved with the Special Olympics.

Both Wendy and Gail had flown from their homes in Spain and Tenerife when they heard the news of their brother's tragic death.

Wendy's partner John Mowbray explained that many of the funeral arrangements were made from Spain and he expressed his thanks to Bullicks Funeral Directors who drove to Wales to bring back the body.

The family also expressed their gratitude to Timothy's sailing partner, Emily Haddon from Bangor, who identified his body.

They added that they want to encourage her to continue sailing.

"It was her boat and she had asked him to compete with her. She was a very good friend to Timothy. She is a lovely girl and we don't want her to feel bad," Gail said.

The family thanked the Royal Lifeboat crew and air ambulance paramedics who tried for 40 minutes to revive Timothy on the beach.

They also paid tribute to the many people who have helped, sent cards and visited since news of the death spread through the community.

They also thanked Timothy's ex-wife Andrea, Jane's mother, for her support.

"They were the best of friends," Gail said.

She said the family have been trying to offer as much support as possible to Timothy's daughter.

"We have told her that in the same way she goes home with her mum, her dad has gone home to be with his mum and dad," she said.

Wendy added: "It has been devastating."