Businessman forced to watch as £400,000 yacht goes up in smoke

Six people were rescued from a motor yacht that burst into flames two miles off the West Sussex coast yesterday, Sunday 18 February. Brighton businessman Mike Knowles was with five friends on his £400,000 cruiser, 58ft Sea PrincessCloudbreak, when it caught fire and sank off the coast of Shoreham yesterday afternoon.

The group were taking the out for a spin for the first time since October after an expensive winter refit. But they were forced to abandon ship at 1.20pm when fire broke out on board just moments after it had pulled out of its mooring in Brighton Marina.

Rescue services were alerted and coastguards requested all boats in the area to assist. Fellow sailors helped them onto their vessels before lifeboat crews from Brighton and Shoreham took them back to the shore. A plume of smoke estimated to be thousand feet high could be seen from Brighton and Hove, although the blaze was at least ten miles away just outside Shoreham Harbour.

The vessel, reported to have had a full tank of fuel, burned for two hours as RNLI and coastguard crews had to stand by and watch because it was too dangerous to approach. It sank at 3.18pm. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has launched an investigation into the cause of the fire.