LIFEBOAT crewmen from Redcar have saved four lives - off the coast of Greece.

The five men, and two friends, were taking part in a yacht race off the island of Levkas when they heard a distress call on channel 16 of their VHF radio as they sailed into harbour.

They set off to save the stricken yacht Solace, braving gale force winds and 7ft waves. The vessel was sinking with four people on board.

A rescue vessel sent from the Greek marina which had gone to help, had also broken down, leaving the stricken yacht filling with water.

The crew, including Redcar lifeboat men Michael Picknett, Andy Beevis, Barry Knaggs, Mark Reeves and Gordon Young, along with North-umberland lifeboat man Michael Hoyle and Hartlepool firefighter Dave Bond, managed to bring their 38ft yacht alongside the sinking Solace.

They rescued two women on board the yacht, while its English skipper and another man helped Mr Hoyle repair a broken sea water pipe.

The crew then towed the yacht back to harbour, with the yacht's bow under water in the dramatic operation two weeks ago.

They arrived flying the lifeboat flag, to a heroes welcome as about 300 people applauded the two vessels' return.

The lifeboat men then enjoyed a few beers after a successful mission -- 1,309 nautical miles from Redcar.