The Lizard lifeboat spent much of Friday night rescuing a dismasted French yacht taking part in the annual Helford to Brittany L'Aber Wrac'h race.

The lifeboat was called out at midnight after red flares were seen coming from the yacht Morbreizer, some 30 miles south east of Lizard Point.

A search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose went to the scene and stayed with the yacht, which had four crew on board, until the lifeboat arrived.

Heading into a stiff south easterly wind, the lifeboat, with coxswain Phil Burgess in charge, reached the stricken yacht after more than two hours and took it in tow to Falmouth.

The lifeboat eventually returned to station at Kilcobben Cove at 9am on Saturday.

Following the rescue, Lizard lifeboat operations manager, Peter Greenslade, said: "This just shows once again how vital it is to have a tip-top lifeboat at the Lizard station. The great bulk of rescues carried out by our boat take place far from land and require the crew to be at sea for many hours, often at night."

Last autumn, Mr Burgess and members of his crew were given special RNLI awards following an all-night 14-hour rescue.

The Lizard's current boat - a 17-year-old Tyne class - is due to be replaced by a faster, state-of-the-art Tamar class in the next few years.

n Poor weather conditions in the channel caused problems for several of the yachts taking part in this year's L'Aber Wrac'h race.

Another of the casualties was the vessel crewed by the first all-women British team to take part in the event.

Having set off soon after midday on Friday, the ladies, who were crewing one of the smaller boats in the race, decided to turn around some nine hours later when the conditions became too severe. They made it back to the safety of the Truro river in the early hours of Saturday morning.