LIFEBOAT crews were involved in an 11-hour rescue mission following reports that a yacht’s skipper fell overboard.

Walton and Frinton Lifeboat volunteers' pagers sounded just after 11.45pm on Friday requesting the launch of the station’s All-Weather Lifeboat.

The crew attended a 'May Day' call from a yacht about 35 miles north-east of the lifeboat station after its skipper had fallen overboard wearing a lifebelt.

Harwich Lifeboat had also been requested to assist along with Rescue Coastguard helicopter.

READ MORE >> Family stranded in Walton Backwaters rescued by firefighters and RNLI

A spokesman for Walton and Frinton RNLI said: “Launching into freshening northerly winds, the volunteers made best possible speed to the last known position provided by the yacht's crew.

“While proceeding to the search location, news was shared that the skipper had been located by rescue aircraft and the rescue helicopter had successfully recovered the person, transferring them to the nearest hospital for further care.

“Attention now turned to the yacht which had two crew left onboard, who were struggling to regain control of the yacht due to sail damage and steering issues.

“After discussions between the yacht's crew and the coastguard it was requested that Walton Lifeboat, the closest lifeboat to the scene continued to the yacht's position to assist.

"Harwich Lifeboat was released allowing them to return to station at this point.”

READ MORE >> Walton and Frinton RNLI responds to 4 emergencies in 5 days

As the crews arrived, those onboard the yacht tried to resolve the foresail issues.  A lifeboat volunteer boarded the yacht in challenging conditions and successfully secured the damaged foresail and ensured the rest of the yacht was safe.

Once was this completed, the decision was made to attach a tow, bringing the yacht’s crew to safety.

The RNLI spokesman added: “Following a six-hour tow, Walton and Frinton Lifeboat safely secured the yacht and her crew alongside at Shotley Marina where contact was made with the local hospital to allow the condition of the skipper could be shared.

“At this time, Dover Coastguard had released the Lifeboat and her crew allowing them to refuel and return to the station.

“The arduous rescue mission, which began when the pagers activated, concluded after an exhaustive 11-hour operation.”

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "The skipper of a sailing boat who went overboard wearing a lifejacket was rescued during the night by an HM Coastguard helicopter after more than an hour in the sea off the coast of Kent.

"The alarm was raised at around 11.35pm on Friday 19 May, with a mayday from a location about 15 nautical miles north-east of Margate.

"The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Lydd was sent and winched up the casualty by about 1am on Saturday 20 May.

"The search was helped by a strobelight on the sailor's lifejacket which was spotted with the assistance of a Dutch search and rescue aeroplane diverted to support.

"The casualty was reported to be extremely cold but conscious, and was flown by helicopter to Ipswich hospital.

"The RNLI all-weather lifeboat from Walton was sent to tow the vessel into Shotley Marina, near Harwich.

"Four nearby ships were asked to assist during the search, and Coastguard Rescue Teams were sent to support on land from Felixstowe and Holbrook."