The crew of a yacht caught in a thunderstorm made a worried call to the coastguard after their vessel suffered ripped sails and engine failure.

RNLI volunteers from Newhaven rushed to the stricken vessel, despite gale force eight conditions, off the coast of Cuckmere in the early hours of Monday morning.

The six-man crew monitored radar in a search for the stricken vessel, with the treacherous weather making the rescue difficult.

Coxswain Lewis Arnold said: “The lifeboat made the best safe speed to the reported location - due to the poor visibility, sea state and weather conditions, this was not an easy passage.

“Searchlights were on, but flashback against the rain in the darkness made them of little use.

“A small break in the thunderstorm gave the lights a chance to shine - and there was the yacht, being thrown around in all directions with a tiny dragging anchor line attempting to slow the drift towards the rocky cliffs.”

The Argus: The yacht was towed to safety in Eastbourne by the RNLIThe yacht was towed to safety in Eastbourne by the RNLI (Image: Eastbourne RNLI)

The lifeboat was manoeuvred close enough to pass two survivors life jackets and attempts were made to attach a tow line to bring the yacht to safety.

However, Mr Arnold said: “The severe weather conditions and darkness made it impossible for the crew on deck to see where we were or how close to shore we were.

“Just as the crew readied to pass the tow line, a squall came through. To maintain the safety of the lifeboat, the attempt was aborted.”

After two further attempts were made and aborted, the “extremely wet and fatigued” crew successfully secured the tow line and the vessel was taken safely to Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, with help from RNLI crews from the town.

“This was an extremely challenging shout. The good outcome comes with thanks to the grit and determination of our volunteer crew,” Mr Arnold said.

RNLI volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the coasts of the UK and Ireland, with 238 lifeboat stations in operation across both countries.

Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.