A GREENOCK man has died in a tragic yacht accident in South Africa.

Experienced sailor George Mills perished after his yacht ran aground in thick fog in the early hours of Monday morning.

The 60-year-old’s body was later recovered by the National Sea Rescue Institute along with that of Irish woman Rachel Daly, 49, who was also on board.

Her husband, 66, survived and managed to make it to shore to raise the alarm.

George had lived in Tulbagh in Western Cape for 14 years but regularly kept in touch with his family in Greenock, who have been left stunned by their loss.

George’s sister Marion Taylor, who lives with her husband Andrew in Octavia Terrace, said: “My brother Ian phoned me at 9am on Monday to tell me what had happened.

“I was absolutely devastated.

“It still really hasn’t sunk in.

“George was a very competent sailor. I never thought that this would happen – I thought he was invincible.

“It is a real shock.

“In my heart I would say he wasn’t a risk taker and he knew the area well.”

She last saw George in July when she and Andrew, who are members of Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club, enjoyed a sail with George around the Mull of Kintyre.

Marion, a retired health visitor who now works as a childminder, said: “I was just delighted that I had two competent sailors on board and I’m happy now that I had that time with him.

“He was a very experienced sailor and had a yacht in the Kip Marina and then moored in the Holy Loch for years.”

Dad-of-three George had moved to Greenock with his family from Hamilton when he was 12 and lived in South Street.

He was a pupil at Greenock Academy before going on to study psychology at Edinburgh University.

He worked in marketing and advertising for many years before returning to Greenock to set up a company called Compass Marketing, which he subsequently sold before spending more of his time in South Africa.

Marion said: “Everyone was drawn to him. He had the Midas touch, folk just thought he was charming.

“He had devilish good looks, a daredevil approach to life and insisted on meeting every adventure head on.”

George’s younger brother Ian, 51, a dentist who lives in North Devon, was devastated when he first heard the news from a friend in South Africa, followed by calls from the sea rescue department in Cape Town and the Foreign Office.

He said: “I was devastated, none of us thought we would get a call like that or that he would ever have a last day. 

“He was a one-off.

“He lived life to the full and was always the life and soul of any party. He lived each day if it was going to be his last.

“He was also an outstanding rugby player in his day, an accomplished musician, a witty raconteur and a successful businessman.”

Ian says he will cherish the time he had with George when he visited him in Devon last year and the pair went to a music festival.

He also revealed that his brother was no stranger to adventure – having set out to sail around the world more than 25 years ago.

He told the Telegraph: “It was in 1990 and he got as far as the Cook Islands before his yacht was holed on a coral reef and sank. George was left penniless and had to borrow his airfare home.

“Tragically, the same week that his yacht sank his older sister Helen succumbed to breast cancer.

“These tragic events did little to dampen George’s enthusiasm and he returned to the UK to again work, with the prime objective of saving for a new boat.”

After he sold his company, George ended up spending more and more time in South Africa. 

Ian said: “He loved the country, but his heart was always in the west coast of Scotland – or more accurately just off the coast.

“Our father Harry died when I was seven and my three older siblings all helped to look after me. I idolised George, we were closer than the nine years would suggest.

“He had many friends and was very popular.

“He had fantastic energy and enthusiasm for life and was constantly moving on to something else, whether that was in business or in his personal life, just living his life to the full.

“His stories and adventures were legendary and we always joked that if he wrote a book about his life the publishers would insist that it should be filed under fiction.

“He has left a very large hole in many people’s lives.” 

George’s yacht Tara ran into trouble between  Bokpunt and Gansekraal around 4.30am on Monday.

The NSRI – a South African organisation similar to the RNLI in the UK – said its sea rescue rafts and a police dive unit responded once the alarm was raised. Rescue teams, however, discovered the yacht broken up among rocks on the shore.

An inquest will be held into the cause of the accident and Ian is liaising with the Foreign Office to bring George’s body back to the UK.

It is hoped that a service to celebrate his life will be held in Greenock.

He is survived by his daughter and two sons.