Eastbourne’s all-weather lifeboat launched shortly after 09.30 on Saturday morning (9 July) in response to a distress call from a lone yachtsman 25 miles offshore in the English Channel
The call-out proved to be the start of a very long and tiring day for the volunteer lifeboat crew. A 12 metre Swiss registered yacht with one person on board had got into difficulties and begun taking on water whilst on passage to Le Havre on the Normandy coast of France. With the bilge pump unable to cope with the ingress of water the yachtsman put out a distress call for help. Whilst the lifeboat crew were assembling the Eastbourne based fishing vessel Hope Gap which was in the vicinity went to assist. In consultation with the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) at Dover Coastguard it was agreed that the crew of Hope Gap would take the yachtsman aboard their vessel for his own safety and await the arrival of the lifeboat which was by then making full speed toward the scene. Eastbourne’s powerful Tamar class all-weather lifeboat arrived within the hour and transferred crewmen and a salvage pump aboard the stricken vessel and collected the yachtsman from the fishing vessel. When the condition of the yacht was stabilised it was taken under tow to commence the long slow return to the nearest safe port, Sovereign Harbour Eastbourne. The crew of Hope Gap were thanked for their prompt response and assistance and were released to continue their work.
After several hours the disabled yacht had been towed to the approaches of Sovereign Harbour and as a safety precaution Eastbourne’s inshore lifeboat (ILB) was launched to assist with the difficult task of manoeuvring the disabled yacht into the confines of the marina locks. Before the ILB could return to station they were urgently tasked to rescue a person who had been cut off by the incoming tide below the cliffs at Seven Sisters. Whilst this operation was underway the ILB was retasked by HM Coastguard to locate a female person who had been seen to jump from the cliff top at Beachy Head. The rescue at Seven Sisters was reassigned to Newhaven lifeboat. A long search ensued by both the ILB and the coastguard rescue helicopter. Eventually a body was located and removed from the beach by the rescue helicopter. The volunteer lifeboat crew was finally released from service at 6 pm.