Penlee and Sennen Cove RNLI lifeboat crews spent 11 hours at sea rescuing a 3,600 ton coaster with engine failure which had dragged its anchor and was heading towards the Cornish coast.

The two lifeboats were first called to help the the 88 metre Lady Alida at 3am on Monday morning, after the vessel suffered engine failure three miles south of Gwennap Head.

A strong south westerly force six wind, had started to push the ship towards the shore, and Falmouth Coastguard requested the launch of both lifeboats in the hope that they could stop the drift or evacuate the seven crew if necessary.

In very difficult conditions, the Ivan Ellen and City of London III lifeboats were able to tow the vessel two miles into deeper safer water, before the Lady Alida dropped anchor and both lifeboats headed to Newlyn at 6.20am.

At 6.25am, while the volunteer crew were having a cup of tea in the Penlee boathouse, Falmouth Coastguard requested the relaunch of both lifeboats as the Lady Alida was dragging its anchor and drifting towards the shore at the speed of one knot.

Just after 7am, after an uncomfortable steam, both lifeboats arrived on scene - the initial plan was to stand by the vessel until a tug arrived from Brixham but at 8.30am, with the vessel only 2.5 miles from shore and still drifting north easterly, they once again attached tow ropes and slowly headed seaward to safer waters.

The salvage tug was struggling with the poor weather conditions and making slow progress, and a larger tug anchored in Mount's Bay was then tasked to help.

By the time the tug arrived on scene both lifeboats had towed the vessel over four miles to safer waters in fairly poor weather conditions, and they stood down with their jobs complete.

Patrick Harvey, coxswain of Penlee RNLI all-weather lifeboat, said: "It was an extremely long job, not made easy by the conditions. A fantastic team effort from both of the volunteer lifeboat crews from Penlee and Sennen Cove."