HE has battled gale-force winds and mountainous seas on an epic 3,000-mile adventure around the UK – all at the tender age of 69.

Yesterday Ray Oliver sailed into a Hampshire marina a hero after successfully completing a 16-month circumnavigation of the country.

And waiting on the dock to give him a hero’s welcome was his biggest fan – his 88-year-old mum Peggy.

Cheers went up as Ray – who only took up sailing in 2005 – steered his 31ft yacht Christine Marie into Lymington Yacht Haven for the first time since setting off in April last year.

Watch Ray's return home below

After greeting friends and family who gathered on the pontoon, Ray said: “It was always a goal of mine to one day set sail and be good enough to go the whole way round the UK.

“I’m very pleased, I feel it’s been a great accomplishment.

“I had a great time, it was a lot of fun indeed.”

The retired marketing executive visited more than 100 ports around the UK during the voyage.

He spent the first year travelling up the east coast of England and exploring Scotland.

Since April this year he has been sailing down the west coast and taking in Ireland before pointing the bow in the direction of Lymington.

“There were so many enjoyable moments,” Ray said.

“There was some brilliant sailing along the way and lovely harbours.

“Scotland was beautiful. Coming down the Murray Firth towards Inverness we saw a 40ft sperm whale.

“It’s not all been plain sailing, we had some tough times as well.

“We saw some very strong winds and tough seas, it really tested my sailing abilities.

“We made the longest passage I’ve ever done from Cork to the Isles of Scilly.

“When we arrived at Tresco after sailing 130 miles in 30 hours we got caught on a lobster pot while entering the harbour.

“It was pretty dangerous for a while and it took us two days to sort the boat out.”

As well as fulfilling a lifelong dream, Lymington-based Ray also raised more than £3,700 for charity, split between the RNLI, Rethink and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

He added: “Now I’m back I’m looking forward to being back in my own bed for a while instead of tossing up and down on the sea!”