Electrical storm halted search for missing yachtsman

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Volunteer lifeboat crews from three Sussex lifeboat stations spent the night at sea off the coast of Sussex searching for a missing yachtsman.

A man was reported missing by his wife, after he failed to return home from a sailing trip yesterday (November 9).

Brighton RNLI were tasked by Solent Coastguard to launch its inshore lifeboat at 11.30pm, after a 70ft luxury motor vessel was discovered drifting within Brighton Marina with no-one on board.

Lifeboats from Newhaven and Shoreham soon joined the search, alongside the coastguard and Sussex Police.

Roger Cohen, Brighton RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, said conditions for the volunteers overnight were ‘challenging’.

“We had heavy rain with passing thunderstorms and fork lighting in Sussex throughout the night, making things even more challenging than they would normally be,” he said.

“At the moment this is something of a mystery – the Sunseeker was found within the eastern breakwater of the marina, banging up against the wall. When my crew boarded they found evidence it had recently been operated, but no sign of anyone.

“Judging by the instruments and passage plans we found, the yachtsman appears to be skilled and experienced. Obviously at this moment we are focusing on the search and hoping for a positive outcome for all concerned.”

The 70ft Sunseeker was found drifting on the inside of the eastern breakwater of Brighton Marina.

Fears grew after a Brighton lifeboat crew member boarded it and found, despite instruments being on and the engines still warm, there was no sign of anyone onboard.

Solent Coastguard requested the launch of Shoreham RNLI all-weather lifeboat and D-class inshore lifeboat just before midnight, and the RAF helicopter Rescue 125 was also initially involved in the search but was stood down because an active lightning storm in the area presented a danger.

After searching throughout the night, Brighton, Shoreham and Newhaven lifeboat crews were stood down at around 5.30am today, but launched again at 7am at first light to recommence searching. Coastguard rescue helicopter 104 is also participating in the search this morning.