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Gold-hunting sailor freed from striken boat
A sailor en route to Argentina in search of gold sparked a 12-hour rescue operation as his boat ran aground.
The 65-year-old man was alone in his yacht when it ran aground off Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne.
Police, paramedics, a rescue helicopter, the RNLI, lifeboat volunteers and firefighters spent hours coordinating a mission to rescue the man from the 36ft yacht, which was drifting dangerously in violent swirls.
He was eventually freed from the boat late on Friday night and was passed into the care of police and paramedics.
A RNLI source said the man was planning to go to Argentina because he said he knew of a submarine that had sunk and was full of gold.
The source added: “When he hit the rocks in Eastbourne he thought he was in Weymouth but actually he was closer to Beachy Head.
“He could have drowned – especially because he decided to just batten down the hatches and go to sleep.
“Eventually he decided he had enough and sent out a Mayday distress flare.”
It is the second time the man has caused problems for the emergency services, having previously got stuck on the Thames.
The drama began at 10am on Friday (March 15) when the Eastbourne all-weather lifeboat was launched when it became clear the lone yachtsman was in difficulties off Bexhill.
Coastguard officials were monitoring erratic radio communications from the vessel which had drifted dangerously close inshore.
But when the volunteer RNLI crew arrived, the yacht’s skipper refused to talk to them.
Negotiations began between coastguard officers and the skipper but he rejected all offers of assistance.
An Eastbourne RNLI spokesman said: “At 8.05pm in atrocious weather conditions with driving rain and gale force winds a ‘Mayday’ distress call was received by Dover Coastguard from the yacht which had run aground on the beach.
“Guided to the location by red distress flares fired from the yacht, the lifeboat was soon on scene.”
A police spokeswoman said the man had been taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital before he was detained under the Mental Health Act.
The boat will be removed today (March 18).
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