TRIBUTES have been paid to an inspirational Hampshire businessman who has died on holiday in the Caribbean.

Paul Heys, the highly-respected founder and managing director of Hamble-based Key Yachting, got into difficulties after going for a swim in Martinique.

His colleagues at the yacht sales company have been left devastated by his death.

In a statement they said: “Paul was a much-loved husband, dad, brother and granddad, and was greatly admired in the sailing community; sailing was his life and passion.

“Paul will be missed terribly by everyone who knew him.

“The team at Key Yachting are understandably upset by this sudden news. Office attendance may be reduced over the next few days. We appreciate your understanding of our grief at this time.”

Daily Echo:

Mr Heys’s friends included Matthew Boyle, director of a Hampshire restaurant group called Ideal Collection.

He said: “Paul worked tirelessly to help others get afloat and enjoy sailing. Always finding time for everyone, he was a great ambassador for the sport and the yachting industry.

“He was a true legend and one of life’s good guys.”

Another friend, David McLeman, added: “Paul introduced so many people into our sport. He was so generous with his time, always going the extra mile to support both experienced sailors and new owners.

“His loss will be felt deeply by the global sailing community.”

Mr Heys, 62, of Netley Abbey, sold several types of yacht including the J Boats, which have come to dominate events such as Cowes Week.

He was on holiday with his wife, Marie-Claude, known affectionately as MC, when he died during a swim at Les Anses d’Arlet on Monday.

Members of the sailing community took to social media to voice their shock and dismay after learning of the tragedy.

Jonathan Goring said: “We won the 2004 Commodore’s Cup with Paul and MC’s help. He was a big-hearted, inspirational man who instinctively knew what matters in life.”

Daily Echo:

Jack Fenwick of the Hamble-based Royal Yachting Association, also paid tribute.

He told the Daily Echo: “Paul was a very friendly, sociable person as well as being a passionate and driven salesperson. He was also very pro-active and was always trying to think of ways to help the sport.”

Writing on social media Vernon Bradley added: “He transformed sailing for many.”

A Key Yachting spokeswoman said Mr Heys’s family and colleagues had been “utterly overwhelmed” by the huge number of messages of support they had received.