A YACHTSMAN sailed off the Dorset coast unaware of a major search underway to find him.

Portland Coastguard said the mariner, who got to his destination safely, didn’t do anything wrong but that a ‘mixture of coincidences’ led to him not being aware of the operation to find him.

The man and his partner set off from Lyme Regis yesterday on board their 33ft vessel Blue Moon, intending to sail to Portland.

Portland Coastguard was aware of the passage but attempts to contact the vessel were unsuccessful. It was upgraded to a ‘pan pan’ urgency call and other vessels were urged to look out for Blue Moon.

Three coastguard teams, the Portland rescue helicopter and a lifeboat were involved in a search which went on for a few hours.

A coastguard spokesman said: “The man had closed the hatch to stop water getting down below and he stayed on the cockpit above making sure all was okay. With the hatch closed and with no exterior speaker it meant he couldn’t hear the radio.

“His passage plan took him very far south, 15 miles off the Bill, and visibility yesterday was 10 miles.

“He didn’t do anything wrong. He had all the right gear. It was a mixture of coincidences.

“But from our point of view if a situation arises like this we have to pursue it until we know all is well.”

Coastguards said ‘several hours’ after the start of the search the skipper responded to broadcasts on the emergency channel and confirmed all was well aboard.

The yacht later berthed at Portland Marina where the crew were met by the Weymouth Sector Manager for a 'debriefing.'