Lengthy rescue operation at sea

The Fifty Fifty stranded off Beachy Head
The Fifty Fifty stranded off Beachy Head
Share this article

A BOAT’S maiden voyage was scuppered after mechanical failure led to a six-and-a-half hour rescue near Beachy Head.

The 22ft sports angling boat, travelling from Brighton to Eastbourne, issued a Mayday distress call just before 6pm on January 24 when it became trapped among the rocks on the notoriously treacherous Beachy Head ledge reef.

Dover Coastguard requested both RNLI Eastbourne lifeboats to be launched immediately as the pounding surf threatened to seriously damage Fifty Fifty and put the lone sailor’s safety at risk.

A spokesperson for Dover Coastguard said, “The concern was the boat might roll on to its side.

“Imagine if the boat had rolled, the guy could have slipped and cracked his head open.”

The volunteer crew of the inshore lifeboat rescued the relieved boat owner and passed him over to the all-weather lifeboat.

Crews fitted an anchor and placed fenders around the Fifty Fifty to cushion the blows from surrounding rocks as the tide fell rapidly around them.

The tide eventually left the boat high and dry and both lifeboats returned to the station.

At 10.30pm both boats re-launched to begin the delicate operation of refloating the stranded vessel.

Two volunteers hopped onto the angling boat and rigged a towline back to the all-weather lifeboat.

As the tide began to rise, crews fitted more fenders to the hull to avoid more damage as the tide rose.

The boat was gently eased off the rocks and finally reached deep water just after midnight.

Crews inspected the hull to make sure it had not been breached and it was eventually towed to Sovereign Harbour.

The two lifeboats docked at 12.30am on Wednesday morning and were made ready for relaunch by 2am.