FRANCE SAILING VENDEE GLOBE

Derek Hatfield set out on his second global sailing race in 2008, but was forced to pull out when a large wave broke two of the mast spreaders on his boat. Hatfield's wife confirmed Monday that her husband had died suddenly at the age of 63. (Jacques Brinon/The Associated Press)

Derek Hatfield, a Nova Scotia sailor who gained international recognition for competing alone in around-the-world sailing events, has died at the age of 63.

His wife confirmed Monday that her husband had died suddenly. She declined to say when or how he died.

Hatfield, a former RCMP officer originally from Newcastle, N.B., was the 126th person to complete an around-the-world sailing race on his own. He was the first Canadian to do so twice — once in 2002-2003 and again in 2010-2011.

'True champion of offshore sailing'

Sail Nova Scotia announced Hatfield's death in a Facebook post on Saturday, saying he was "a true champion of offshore sailing at all levels and a tremendous ambassador for the sport."

The Mahone Bay-based sailor set out for his first around-the-world solo race in September 2002. After nearly eight months at sea he finished third overall in his class, despite being hit by storms that heavily damaged his boat along the way.

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker

In late 2008 he set out on another global race, but was forced to pull out when a large wave broke two of the mast spreaders on his boat.

Hatfield's last around-the-world race started in October 2010. He placed third in that race — the Velux 5 Oceans Race — and became the first Canadian to race around the world twice, alone.

Just before embarking on his third global race, Hatfield said in an interview with CBC's At the Table that his biggest fear during any competition is having to drop out of a race.

"You have to feel so secure in what you're doing on the boat all the time that you really don't feel that you're at risk just because you're a thousand miles from land," said Hatfield.

"If there was any fear at all of the ocean or of being alone, that fear would stop you from going and you would never leave the dock."

Outside of sailing, Hatfield was an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.