A woman was pulled to safety after routine maintenance turned into a dramatic rescue when she fell overboard from a yacht off the Suffolk coast.

A coastguard rescue helicopter and Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat ‘Patsy Knight’ responded just after 6.30pm on Monday, May 30 to a mayday call that a woman needed rescuing from the sea.

With the UK Coastguard receiving the mayday call, the lifeboat crew were told that two people had been aboard the 12-metre yacht, from Belgium, when one person "had accidentally fallen into the water".

Lifeboat coxswain John Fox said: "We launched quickly and made good speed to the yacht which was six miles north-east of Lowestoft.

"On arrival we were told that after the woman had fallen overboard, the skipper of the yacht had taken the wind out of the sails and lowered them to stop the boat quite quickly.

"He threw a lifebelt to the woman - who was wearing a lifejacket - and had managed to pull her towards the stern of the vessel but was initially unable to get her back on board.

"He clipped her onto the rail then contacted UK coastguard by radio and a coastguard helicopter from Humberside was scrambled.

"In the meantime, a tanker that was nearby stopped to offer assistance."

Mr Fox added: "Fortunately, the skipper was then successful in pulling the woman onto the deck of the yacht and took her below deck where, as she was very cold, he turned the heaters on and was able to get her into some dry clothing and warm her with blankets.

“We put two lifeboat crew onto the yacht so the skipper, who was also a bit shocked, could attend to the woman.

"The lifeboat crew assessed the casualty and then steered the yacht under engine power back to Lowestoft yacht basin escorted by Lowestoft Lifeboat – where they were met by HM coastguard rescue team and an ambulance crew."

With the lifeboat returning to its mooring at 8.45pm, Mr Fox praised the "very experienced" skipper adding the actions he took "were exactly what was needed to save the woman".

Mr Fox added: "We were told that the pair were doing some maintenance on the yacht and she went to get hold of a ladder at the stern of the yacht that was not secure and she fell over the side.

"The pair were on a trip around the UK and had left Harwich that morning heading for Hull.”