A FISHING boat capsized in gale force winds off Eastbourne today.

Eastbourne and Newhaven Lifeboat crews were launched alonside the Coastguard helicopter as part of a major rescue mission about 14 miles off shore.

It is understood that all four fishermen who were aboard the Belgian trawler have been rescued.

HM Coastguard received a call from a merchant vessel at just beofre 4pm.

The crew reported that they could see a capsized fishing vessel with two people sitting on the hull and two people in the water in the south west lane of the English Channel.

HM Coastguard also received a distress alert transmitted from the fishing vessel’s radio.

The HM Coastguard Lydd search and rescue helicopter was immediately launched, as well as the Eastbourne and Newhaven RNLI All Weather Lifeboats.

A Mayday relay broadcast was also issued by HM Coastguard asking all vessels in the area to assist if they were nearby.

Many vessels responded to the broadcast and also made their way to the scene.

The merchant vessel, which reported the incident, picked up two people from the water and the two people on the hull were picked up by the HM Coastguard helicopter.

Kaimes Beasley, Duty Controller for HM Coastguard said: "This was a very successful outcome to what could have been a tragic one.

"There was a huge effort to rescue these four men in near gale force conditions in the English Channel.

"Thankfully, all four fishermen have been picked up and despite being cold and wet are otherwise safe and well.

The rescued crew were taken to Dover Coastguard Station where they were assessed by the HM Coastguard Lydd helicopter crew paramedics.

The crew did not require hospital treatment but an ambulance made its way to the station as a precautionary measure.