AN INQUEST has been opened into the death of a New Forest sailor whose body was found two days after Christmas.

The hearing at Winchester Coroner's Court was told that Zane Gills, 36, of Captains Row, Lymington, died in Barcelona on December 27.

A post-mortem examination carried out in Spain established that Mr Gills had drowned, the inquest heard.

Acting area coroner Sam Marsh said a full port-mortem report was due to be sent from Barcelona and adjourned the inquest until June 30.

Mr Gills was a professional sailor who took part in the world's toughest sailing events including the gruelling Volvo Ocean Race.

His death was announced on New Year's Eve by his widow, Sarah Gills.

Writing on Facebook she said: “It’s with disbelief I have to share with you that Zane has tragically died in an accident. We are all totally shocked and devastated by the news. He was an incredible man and will be very sorely missed.”

Other people have taken to social media to express their and dismay at his death.

One man said: "I cannot say how sorry I am to hear this. Zane was a lovely man and the world will be poorer without him."

Another social media user posted: "Zane was such a bright light and a complete joy to be around. Grateful to have had the good fortune to have known him."

Zane's body is reported to have been found near a boat he had moored at Port Vell with his brother.

The Australian national was a member of Lymington Mariners rugby club, who played a home game in memory of their team-mate.

The club's vice-chairman, Stuart Brotherton, said: "He really was one of the nicest guys you could wish to meet and was always smiling."