Eastbourne’s all-weather lifeboat Diamond Jubilee was called upon last night (4 Oct) to assist an historic 105 tonne sailing vessel which was dragging its anchor in gale force winds off Sovereign Harbour

Earlier in the day the 102ft brigantine square rigger Lady of Avenel had sailed from Poole in Dorset for an overnight stay in Sovereign Harbour. On her approach to harbour she suffered engine failure and was unable to enter the shelter of the marina unaided. The crew dropped anchor off Langney Point whilst they endeavoured to make repairs. With the strong SW wind forecast to increase to gale force, the vessel’s anchor began to drag threatening to drive the ship onto nearby rocks. The skipper requested urgent assistance from HM Coastguard. Aware or the vessel’s predicament the volunteer lifeboat crew had already assembled and were able to launch the moment the request was received.  Quickly on scene a towline was passed to the casualty and with expert boat handling Coxswain Mark Sawyer manoeuvred the lifeboat to take the strain off the anchor chains so that the anchors could be retrieved. Then the long slow process of carefully towing the casualty into the shelter of the harbour began. The combined length of the casualty and the lifeboat was greater than the harbour locks so a straightforward tow into the locks was not possible and an alternative had to be sought. The increasing wind strength made entry into the locks virtually impossible so Coxswain Mark decided to use the lifeboat’s permanent mooring buoys in the outer harbour as a temporary refuge for the casualty. After over two hours of tense and strenuous work from the lifeboat crew the casualty was eventually made safe on the lifeboat moorings. The grateful skipper commended the professionalism and skilful conduct of the volunteer crew before settling down to safely ride out the storm.