RESCUE crews searching for a former Upton upon Severn woman whose yacht was discovered wrecked off the Cornwall coast have admitted it would be “close to a miracle” to find her alive.

Searches for 65-year-old Ona Unwin are continuing after the remains of her vessel the Seagair were discovered the previous afternoon.

She set sail alone from Mousehole in Cornwall on Saturday evening, heading for Bideford in Devon. However relatives became anxious when she failed to show up.

Mrs Unwin only bought the yacht last week and fears have been raised locally that she may have ignored warnings about her own capabilities as a sailor, as well as dismissing weather forecasts which predicted difficult sailing conditions.

Jerry Hobkirk, owner of Falmouth Yacht Brokers, said he would not have let Mrs Unwin sail had he known she would ignore his pleas not to set off until the weather had subsided.

He also said Mrs Unwin was advised to embark on a sailing refresher course before taking to the water - something the missing woman also appears to have ignored.

He added: "I was amazed when I found out that she had set sail. If I had known, we would have stopped her.

There were strong winds and rough seas on a piece of coast that has very few escape routes. News of the incident has shocked people in Upton, where Mrs Unwin - known by her middle name, Mary - lived for more than 10 years.

Paul Twist, postmaster at Upton Post Office, where she worked for several years, said: “She was a lively character and it was sad and a real shock to hear this news