Roger Liebmann's damaged catamaran.

Roger Liebmann loved sailing and knew all too well the dangers of the open ocean, once talking of his "great respect" for the sea after a close call in stormy weather.

Yesterday, the 69-year-old's family was grieving, as Mr Liebmann's body was discovered on a damaged 18ft catamaran, ending a big search off Bunbury when he failed to return from a sailing trip on Wednesday.

Five boats and three helicopters scoured an area of 250 square nautical miles yesterday morning after a family member raised the alarm when the Donnybrook man had not come home by 10.20pm.

Police are investigating how and why the experienced sailor fell victim to the sea on a day locals described as perfect.

Koombana Bay Sailing Club commodore David Doherty said Mr Liebmann had recently reapplied to become a social member of the club after letting his membership lapse several years ago.

"He just used to sail around in the bay and enjoy that," Mr Doherty said.

He said he did not want to speculate on what might have happened to Mr Liebmann because "anything can go wrong out at sea" but conditions on Wednesday were far from adverse.

"I came at lunch time, he was just launching his boat," Mr Doherty said. "They were light winds, maybe 8 knots. He would have had a perfect sail.

"The boat was mainly equipped for in the bay. I would imagine that he was probably outside the heads, something's happened and he's gotten into trouble and the boat's drifted out (of the bay)."

Club vice-commodore Jon Birch said it was Mr Liebmann's passion for sailing that kept him going.

"One of Roger's joys in life was sailing, it meant a lot to him. Roger's been sailing on a lot of different boats but he's used to sailing on that catamaran. He particularly enjoyed the twilight sailings, the evening sailings," he said.

_The West Australian _understands Mr Liebmann did not log on with Australian Coast Radio Monitors when he set sail.

Mr Liebmann, who described himself as an "incomplete paraplegic" who took up sailing because he could do most of it sitting down, once described on his blog a terrifying week at sea in bad weather on his former boat, the Jolly Roger.

The post, written in 2004, documented a sail back from Rottnest when he was caught in a storm.

"The Jolly Roger would reach with half her length into the air as a huge swell would lift her up, until gravity made her smash down with a heart-stopping bang, into the trough between the swells," he wrote.

"The banging sound of the waves striking the Jolly Roger brought a sense of terror.

"How long before she cracked and let in the Ocean (I use a capital letter here for there is now great respect).

"Only a fool would not be afraid and, usually, when it comes to fear, I lead the pack."

Acting Insp. Mark Smith said Mr Liebmann's family were devastated and a report for the Coroner would be prepared.

The West Australian

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