Jeff Cole's yacht Palamina washed up on the French coast yesterday morning

Dorset Police are investigating the disappearance of a Weymouth sailor whose empty yacht was found washed up on a French beach.

Jeff Cole, 61, left Castle Cove Sailing Club in his yacht Palamina at 7am on Saturday bound for Swanage on Dorset’s south coast, but never arrived.

Concerns were raised by Mr Cole’s family yesterday morning when he did not return home .

His empty 27ft UFO cruiser was found on Grenay beach between Dieppe and Fecamp, northern France yesterday morning, sparking an extensive search by French emergency services.

Investigations were also launched on the British side of the Channel by Dover Coastguard and then Portland Coastguard.

Witness appeal

Dorset Police have now taken over the investigation from Portland Coastguard and are appealing for anyone who saw the blue and green hulled yacht with white sails as it crossed the Channel to come forward.

National Coastwatch Institution volunteers reported seeing a boat matching
Palamina’s description three miles out from St Alban’s Head, near Swanage at around
10am on Saturday morning.

At this time nobody has been found and enquiries are on-going.

Chief Inspector Colin Bell said: ‘Dorset Police are appealing for information following the disappearance of a 61-year-old Weymouth man who set sail from Weymouth at 0700 on Saturday 21 September bound for Swanage.

‘The man’s sailing vessel Palamina has subsequently been located, washed up on a beach at Grenay, in northern France.

‘Police are appealing for anyone with information regarding the disappearance of this man and request that anyone who has seen the vessel or its occupant call 101, quoting incident number 159 of the 23rd.’

Devastated friends and family

Michael Conroy, vice commodore at Castle Cove Sailing Club, said Mr Cole was a well known member of the club who regularly sailed his boat single-handed.

He said Mr Cole’s family were rallying around to support each other and added: ‘The family are completely devastated, it’s so unexpected.

‘The club members are also pretty stumped, although you hear of this sort of thing happening, you don’t expect it to happen to someone you know.

‘Jeff must have fallen overboard but we’ll probably never know the reason behind it.’