Motorboat & Yachting: Coastguard and RNLI teams are searching for the owner of a Sunseeker 75 Yacht after his vessel drifted into Brighton Marina last night with no one on board.
A search and rescue operation is taking place off the coast of Brighton this morning (10 November) after a Sunseeker owned failed to return home last night. Shoreham and Newhaven Coastguard, Shoreham, Newhaven and Brighton lifeboats, and the Lee-on-Solent coastguard helicopter have all been called into action.
The alarm was raised at 9:50pm last night, when his family reported that he had not returned home as expected. Leonard George King, 74, had taken to sea alone in his Sunseeker 75 Yacht, Stefefree.
The boat, which was worth £1.8million when it was launched in 2004, was found alongside the Eastern breakwater just after midnight with its fenders deployed. Lifeboat crews boarded the boat and found the engines were still warm and there was evidence that a “skilled yachtsman” had recently been on board.
Four lifeboats and an RAF 125 helicopter set about a search and rescue mission, which continued until 5:30am, at which point a lightning storm forced the helicopter to land. Following a change of shift, efforts resumed with first light at around 7:00am, the RNLI confirmed. Anyone with any information relating to this incident is encouraged to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed at 11:30am that the search has been suspended. The area covered includes all pontoons at Brighton Marina and all coastal waters within 2.5 miles of Shoreham and Newhaven.
Sussex Police are now treating the incident as a missing persons case. The owner’s wife Stephanie said in a statement: “Len is an experienced yachtman and has been sailing since he was at least 20. Normally we go together but during the week if its calm weather he may go off by himself.
“He went off just before lunch. I was expecting him home for dinner time. I phoned him several times but his phone was unable to connect so I thought he was on his way back. I called the person who has a boat next to us and he thought we were away.
“I can’t understand what has happened. He is a very experienced yachtman. He has all his equipment doubled up and is always careful. That is the way he runs things.”
When the Sunseeker was located it was taking on a small amount of water, having struck the harbour wall. Divers are investigating the situation to see if there was any mechanical fault. A spokesperson for the Coastguard added: “When going out to sea alone, always check in with the Coastguard. Then if something was to happen, we have a bit of extra information to find you.”
Stuart Carruthers, cruising manager at the RYA, urged boat owners to think about their actions and their abilities before setting out to sea.
“The RYA believes that however manned, all boaters should pay particular attention to their personal safety, have a plan, have a suitable means of communication on board, let someone know what they are doing and keep within their experience and ability. Whatever the severity of accidents, they are always regrettable, frequently costly and as we know sometimes tragic.”