A SAILOR has been rescued after abandoning his burning yacht off the North-East coast this morning (Friday, August 22).

The alarm was raised by the lone skipper at just after 6am when his 36ft yacht Julia was 15 nautical miles east of Seaham, County Durham.

The man made a distress call to Humber Coastguard before abandoning his vessel and taking to his life-raft.

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The coastguard also received a number of 999 calls from members of the public who could see smoke plumes as the yacht burned.

The man was winched to safety by a helicopter from RAF Boulmer, as three RNLI lifeboats from Tynemouth and Hartlepool were also launched to go to his rescue.

The casualty, who was unharmed by shaken, was flown by the helicopter to shore at Seaham, where he was met by members of Seaham Coastguard Rescue Team.

The lifeboat crews stood by, unable to prevent the yacht from burning to the waterline.

What remained of the yacht was towed to shore as some of the man’s personal possessions, along with the life raft were recovered

Humber Coastguard Watch Manager Mark Ellis said: “When we spoke to this gentleman, it was clear that he was foreign, but through broken English we were able to instruct him to discharge his personal locator beacon (PLB) which gave us an exact location.

“However due to the highly visible smoke on scene many vessels were already en route to assist.

“When the man was located he had his lifejacket on and was on his life raft. The rescue helicopter reached him first and winched him to safety.”

He added, it had been intended to tow the remains of the yacht back to shore to prevent it from becoming a hazard to other vessels, but it eventually sank.