Rescuers today relived what they described as their most dramatic sea rescue off the Lancashire coast in 12 years
The RNLI lifeboat was scrambled to help a yacht drifting in pitched darkness during gale force winds.
Coastguards alerted the Lytham St Annes crew after reports the vessel was in trouble 32 miles off shore and floating dangerously towards the Morecambe Bay gas field.
The 9m vessel was travelling overnight from Liverpool to the Isle of Man when the alarm was raised at 11.10pm on Tuesday (Septemebr 10).
The report said the yacht was unable to carry on in the worsening sea conditions with her owner suffering from fatigue and on course to run into the gas rigs on the South Morecambe Bay Field.
With winds reaching gale force nine, lifeboat Barbara Anne set out at 11.30pm with Coxswain Robin Baker in command and headed for the reported position of the yacht.
During what they described as the "extremely rough" passage out to the casualty the lifeboat’s radar set failed several times before finally failing completely leaving them unable to find the stricken boat.
Rig support vessel Vos Pathfinder, on guard duty at the gas field, located the yacht but was unable to help due to the severe sea conditions.
The Barbara Anne arrived on scene at 1.15am by which time the yacht was well inside the gas rig exclusion danger zone and still drifting and it was feared it might collide with an accommodation platform after narrowly missing another rig.
Conditions were too dangerous to place the lifeboat alongside the yacht to put a lifeboat crew member on board for fear of damaging both boats and putting crew members in peril.
A tow line was hauled across between the vessels in a 40 minute long operation before the lifeboat could take up the tow and head towards Fleetwood and safety.
The lifeboat entered the safety of the Wyre Estuary in daylight and secured the yacht to the RNLI buoy off Fleetwood shortly after 7am.
The yachtsman was taken aboard the lifeboat to be checked, fed and changed into dry clothes before being left with his boat on the mooring buoy to head into the marina when it opened at high water.
Lifeboat mechanic Martin Jaggs said: “It was the worst weather we have been out in on service for the last 12 years. The yachtsman did a great job connecting the tow line in almost impossible sea conditions.”
Coxswain Robin Baker said: “The sea conditions were horrendous but the crew behaved superbly and there was a strong possibility that the yacht could be forced under one of the gas rigs and wrecked if we hadn’t arrived in time. When we arrived it was already in the exclusion zone around the rigs in which no vessel is allowed to enter because of the danger."