Royal Humane Society
Instituted 1774 Registered Charity Number 231469
recognising the bravery of people
In 2004, Pete Bray was a member of a 4-man team aiming to set a new record for rowing across the Atlantic, west to east.
Together with skipper Mark Stubbs and fellow crew-members John Wills and Jonathan Gornall, he left St John's in Newfoundland in their sponsored boat, Pink Lady, on 30 June 2004.
Ahead lay 2,100 arduous miles across the Atlantic before landfall in Falmouth, Cornwall, and, they hoped, a place in the record books.
After nearly 6 weeks at sea, and with more than 1700 miles behind them, they were on target to beat the 55-day record.
Then disaster struck.
In the early hours of the morning of 8 August - Day 39 of the expedition - they were sitting out a storm some 300 miles off the Scilly Isles when the boat was hit by a giant freak wave. It was the sting in the tail of Hurricane Alex.
The boat split in two, the front half turned upside down and the roof of the small rear cabin was smashed to smithereens.
'I heard a roar and the boat was hit by a double impact,' wrote Gornall in The Times (12 August 2004). 'Suddenly I was being crushed - and then I grasped that I was under water. I knew it was over. The boat was full of water, and there was total darkness.'
All four crew-members were wearing survival suits, but Gornall had unzipped his for greater comfort.
Now he found himself underwater and fighting for his life amongst the debris of the boat. His survival suit was rapidly filling with water and Gornall was in serious trouble. Clinging to the remains of the boat and struggling to stay afloat, he thought he was about to drown.
Suddenly, Pete Bray appeared at his side. He quickly pulled the survival suit back over Gornall's head, squeezing out as much water as possible, and zipped it up.
Despite mountainous seas, Bray dived under the boat to retrieve the life-raft. He then dived down a second time to recover life-jackets and the emergency kit.
Once all four men were in the life-raft, they were able to alert the rescue services, using the boat's emergency beacon and satellite phone.
A signal was relayed to RAF Kinloss in Scotland and a successful rescue operation was co-ordinated with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
In February 2005, Peter Bray was presented with a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for his bravery in saving Jonathan Gornall.
Writing in The Times, Gornall said that being rescued from imminent death was 'like being reborn. It's like being given a second chance.'
And he vowed: ' I'm going to hold on to that sense of privilege; I'm not going to waste it.'