ELEVEN teenagers had to be rescued from the North Sea after their dinghies were battered by gale force winds.
Volunteers from Sunderland RNLI Lifeboat Station were called to help the struggling young sailors, aged between 13 and 16, when strong winds and high seas hit their training session a mile outside Sunderland Harbour.
One young woman suffered a shoulder injury when her dinghy was thought to have overturned.
The rest of the group of two girls and nine boys were unhurt.
The rescue mission was sparked when staff at Sunderland Yacht Club called the Coastguard as their own safety boats were struggling to cope with the number of dinghies needing help due to the rough weather.
Martin Andrew, lifeboat operations manager at Sunderland RNLI, launched inshore lifeboats Wolseley and MyJo.
They were joined by a coastguard rescue team from Sunderland.
Paul Nicholson, senior helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, said: “After launching we immediately made contact with the yacht club’s safety boat crews to establish the whereabouts of each of the dinghies.
“It was quickly confirmed that all dinghies were accounted for, but some needed assisting to the shore due to the poor weather conditions.”
As a precaution, the teenager who had hurt her shoulder was transferred to the lifeboat and brought ashore, but was released without the need of further medical treatment following a check-up at the lifeboat station.
The incident happened at about 12.30pm on Saturday.
It took about half an hour for the two lifeboats and the safety boat crews to get all 11 dinghies safely back to shore.
Mr Nicholson said: “We regularly work with the yacht club to make sure we can work hand in hand with their own safety boat crews should an incident like this happen.
“This meant that what could have been a very difficult incident to deal with went like clockwork.”
He added: “It is important for all sailing clubs to have well practised emergency plans, to ensure that any escalating incident can be dealt with effectively.”