A sailor was lost overboard in gale force winds off Sovereign Harbour last night after local lifeboat crews spent nine hours battling ferocious waves.
Eastbourne all-weather lifeboat (ALB) was launched at half-past midnight after a crewman fell from a passing tug, five miles off shore.
The tug, called Endurance, had two people on board and was sailing from Dover to Brighton with a 60ft motor cruiser under tow.
The tow was lost and the crewman was trying to re-establish it when he fell overboard.
His colleague sent out a Mayday distress call and lifeboat crews rushed to the scene.
The search began off Beachy Head and the lifeboat was joined by a Coastguard Rescue helicopter.
Newhaven all-weather lifeboat was asked to join the search and was later diverted to collect the cruiser, which had drifted five miles from the scene, and towed it to Sovereign Harbour.
The two lifeboats continued their search throughout the night and were joined at first
light by mobile units from HM Coastguard.
Eastbourne Lifeboat spokesman Bob Jeffrey said, “With nothing found the search was finally
abandoned at 09.10 and the tired and battered volunteer crews returned to their
respective stations having spent almost nine hours at sea.”