SHOREHAM lifeboatmen battled stormy seas to search for a missing woman.
But despite hours of searching in difficult conditions, the RNLI crew and mobile coastguards could find no trace.
The Shoreham all-weather lifeboat was launched at 2.40am on Saturday in gale force winds and heavy seas to look for a woman who had gone into the sea off Brighton, between the two piers.
The coastguard mobile units and coastguard helicopter joined the search but it was too rough for Brighton lifeboat to launch.
The Shoreham lifeboat was moved in as close as possible to the shoreline where the woman was believed to have gone in, and then searched between the two piers in gale force conditions.
With the tide ebbing and the depth of the water, the lifeboat had to move further out to search between the piers.
After searching for three hours, the lifeboat was stood down but the mobile coastguards continued to search along the shoreline until daybreak. Nothing was found.
Shoreham lifeboat coxswain Steve Smith said: “The stormy weather conditions meant the search was difficult. We got as close into the breaking surf as we could.
“Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find the woman.
Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
Police were told the woman was seen to be swept out to sea from the beach at Brighton at 2.20am on Saturday.
The woman had been walking along the beach with a man who she knew, having both come out of a seafront club.
Sussex Police said: “She ran into the water and was almost immediately swept off by a large wave. The man tried to grab her but was unable to drag her to safety.”
Police officers arrived within minutes and together with club staff and her friend, approached the sea edge, but the woman was being washed further away and could not be reached due to the heavy sea conditions.
The woman is believed to 36, from Brighton. Although her reason for running into the water is not clear, the incident is not being treated as suspicious.
Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp said: “Police and coastguard searched for several hours in very difficult and dangerous weather but have been unable to locate the woman.
“The sea was very rough indeed overnight and we always urge people to be very careful and stay away from the water’s edge anywhere along the coast when the weather is so bad.”
Police have some witnesses but anyone else who saw what happened is asked to call 101 or email email@example.com quoting Operation Ivy.