DAVID Bemand was six years old when his father Eric was lost at sea and declared "missing, presumed dead".

Now aged 46, David is planning a poignant act of closure on a tragedy that devastated his Herefordshire family.

In June, at the 40th anniversary of his father's departure from Newquay on the Welsh coast, he will set off on a similar voyage from the same harbour - a 1,200 mile round trip to A Coruña in north-west Spain.

Eric, Leominster's radio and TV engineer and a stalwart of the town's Rotary Club, was a keen yachtsman who loved to live life with a dash of adventure and risk.

He had sailed to Norway, Ireland and other destinations and had big ambitions. He wanted to sail around the globe "the wrong way" and was planning to enter the Observer Single Handed Transatlantic Yacht Race.

To qualify, entrants had to sail their craft single-handedly on a voyage of 500 miles or more.

"Typically, Dad decided to make a round trip of it," said David, of Luston. "He planned the 1,200 mile journey to and from Spain with the expectation he would be away for about three weeks including 20 days at sea."

Somewhere in the often treacherous Bay of Biscay the lone yachtsman and his 23-ft home made craft, the Sea Ranger, came to grief.

What happened remains a mystery.

No trace of the 54-year-old man and his yacht was ever found, despite a search by the French navy. Eric Bemand left a widow and three sons.

"I was very close to my father and I get a lump in my throat when I think back to that summer - it still upsets me," said David, who runs a business developing hi-tech tracking devices.

"This trip is as much about me as about Dad. I've always felt there was something missing.

"We had no funeral or memorial service and setting out to do the trip he planned to do will, I hope, bring some sort of closure."

David's wife Michelle and their daughters Millie, 10, Jessica, eight and Erica, three, don't want Dad to do the trip.

But David, who plans to raise money for a local charity, can only reassure his family he will be safe with modern navigation and communications equipment unknown in his father's day.

And he won't be alone - he is looking for a sailing partner.

He knows he will receive a warm welcome at Newquay where the yacht club runs a trophy race every June in his father's memory.

One of David's most treasured possessions is a chrome-plated rotor, a yachting speedometer, which the club presented to Eric Bemand in 1964 for "best long-distance cruising of the year."