AN 'INSPIRATIONAL and brave' round-the-world yachtsman has died months after being diagnosed with cancer as he completed the epic journey.

John Grafton, 62, was part of the crew of the Jamaica Lightning Bolt which completed the 10-month round-the-world clipper sailing race in July.

He was the oldest member of his 10-man crew and the second-oldest in the fleet of 10 boats Mr Grafton showed no signs of illness until Jamaica left Nova Scotia for the penultimate leg of the race in June.

Eight days later when the team docked in Cork, tests revealed John had advanced pancreatic cancer which had spread to his liver.

He died on November 28 and friends from all over the world gathered at his funeral on Friday to pay tribute to a man described by one sailing colleague as 'tackling everything he faced with a smile'.

John’s wife, Trisha, 45, to whom he had been married for 18 years, said: “John was by best friend and an inspiration to all who knew him.

“I draw comfort from the words and memories of his many friends.

“His crew mates from the race produced a dvd which was shown at the funeral.

“It showed him at different places all over the world and summed him up perfectly. A strong, kind and bold man.

“Even after the diagnosis he was converting our house.

“The week before he died he took a woodburner out and was working hard.”

John, of Spring Meadow, Clayton-le-Woods, was a former pharmaceutical rep who gave up work five years ago and set about enjoying his retirement with a series of exciting challenges.

These included rafting in Nepal, riding a Harley Davison around Europe and spending time in Goa.

But his biggest wish was to compete in the round-the-world clipper sailing race.

Speaking to The Telegraph in August, shortly after his diagnosis, John said: “I would say always take up opportunities as you never know what life’s going to throw at you.”

Fellow crew member on Jamaica, Alex O’Hare, said: “He was always a gent and looked after us girls in the crew.

“He was a larger than life character, who lived life to the full.”