COASTGUARDS have slammed two Hampshire sailors who used an auto-pilot system to steer their boat from inside their cabin.

Lifeboat crews launched a £5,000 rescue operation after what looked like an unmanned yacht was spotted near the mouth of Lymington River.

A helicopter, rescue boat and Customs launch were dispatched at huge expense amid fears that someone had fallen off the J133 sailing vessel.

However, when ground crews finally caught up with the yacht on its mooring at Berthon Marina, they found the two sailors in the cabin - they had been navigating with a hi-tech autopilot device.

Lymington Coastguard deputy station officer Colin Tabor said that concern was heightened because the pair had failed to respond to radio messages issued on the emergency 16 channel.

Shenanigans He added that thousands of pounds had been wasted during the call-out on Saturday afternoon.

He said: "It certainly looked like somebody had fallen off, but it turned out that the persons down below were not in any danger. The whole thing would have cost a minimum of £5,000.

"They must have been oblivious to the shenanigans going on outside.

"What they did is not outside the law, but collision regulations say you should maintain a proper lookout at all times.

"We would advise sailors that if they are going to use this kind of technology, they should be aware of the regulations."