The missing sailor from Alfriston, East Sussex hasn't been seen Sunday

An extensive search for a missing sailor, whose Sunseeker boat was found drifting at Brighton marina, has now been suspended.

Sussex Police has named the skipper as Len King, 74, from Alfriston, and is now treating his disappearance as a missing person enquiry.

Talking of his disappearance his wife Stephanie said: ‘Len is an experienced yachtsman and has been sailing since he was at least 20. Normally we go together but during the week if its calm weather he may go off by himself. He went off just before lunch.

‘I was expecting him home for dinner time. I phoned him several times but his phone was unable to connect so I thought he was on his way back. I called the person who has a boat next to us and he thought we were away.

‘I can’t understand what has happened. He is a very experienced yachtsman. He has all his equipment doubled up and is always careful. That is the way he runs things.’

Insp Roy Apps said: ‘It is an anxious time for the family. The search is currently suspended and we are liaising with his family as we investigate the circumstances of his disappearance.

‘An experienced seaman Mr King had left Brighton Marina on his yacht on Sunday afternoon and it is unclear as to what has happened to him. A friend reported him missing to the Coastguard at around 9.50pm last night as he had not returned home.

‘His Sunseeker boat was then found unmanned near the harbour wall at Brighton Marina.

‘An extensive search was carried out by the Shoreham and Newhaven Coastguard Rescue teams, Shoreham, Newhaven and Brighton lifeboats along with the Coastguard helicopter from Lee-on Solent and this has now been suspended until new information comes to light.

‘We are at an early stage of our investigation and we are liaising closely with Mr King’s family while we make enquiries.’

Challenging search

Mr King’s 70ft luxury motor vessel was found drifting on the inside of the eastern breakwater of Brighton Marina.

Fears grew after a Brighton lifeboat crew member boarded it and found that despite instruments being on and the engines still warm, there was no sign of anyone onboard.

Solent Coastguard requested the launch of Shoreham RNLI all-weather lifeboat and D-class inshore lifeboat just before midnight to participate in the search. They were joined by Newhaven RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat and land based coastguard rescue teams.

RAF helicopter Rescue 125 was also initially involved in the search but was stood down because an active lightning storm in the area presented a danger.

After searching throughout the night, Brighton, Shoreham and Newhaven lifeboat crews were stood down at around 5.30am today, but launched again at 7am at first light to recommence searching. Coastguard rescue helicopter 104 is also participating in the search this morning.

Roger Cohen, Brighton RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, said conditions for the volunteers overnight were ‘challenging’.

He said: ‘We had heavy rain with passing thunderstorms and fork lighting in Sussex throughout the night, making things even more challenging than they would normally be.

‘At the moment this is something of a mystery – the Sunseeker was found within the eastern breakwater of the marina, banging up against the wall. When my crew boarded they found evidence it had recently been operated, but no sign of anyone.

‘Judging by the instruments and passage plans we found, the yachtsman appears to be skilled and experienced. Obviously at this moment we are focusing on the search and hoping for a positive outcome for all concerned.’


Pictures: A file pic of Brighton Marina. Credit: Premier Marinas

The Sunseeker yacht and the Newhaven lifeboat at Brighton Marina. Credit: Eddie Mitchell