A YACHT crew had to be rescued after their boat broke down in the middle of a busy shipping lane.

The 28ft yacht with three people on board was part of a flotilla making its way to France on Friday.

However it suffered a mechanical failure 18 miles from the French coast and the crew decided to return to Eastbourne under sail for repairs.

The yacht was supposed to contact the coastguard each hour so its progress could be monitored but communications broke down later in the evening and it became difficult to pinpoint its position.

The P&O cruise liner Azura was in the area on the way to Belgium and was able to relay radio transmissions between the coastguard team and the yacht.

An Eastbourne RNLI lifeboat spokesman said: “With the yacht attempting to cross the busy shipping lanes in the dark with slight winds and a tired crew, the decision was taken for Eastbourne lifeboat to be launched at 9.45pm to assist.

“The yacht was located at 10.40pm about 15 miles off Beachy Head and taken under tow for the long trip back.”

The yacht and lifeboat reached Sovereign Harbour at about 2am on Saturday.