A HOAXER who broadcasted a fake mayday appeal, claiming a boat was sinking, today (Saturday) sparked a huge rescue operation involving lifeboat and coastguard helicopter crews.

The hoax appeal from the Bonchurch aerial, which pleaded: "Mayday, we're sinking," turned out to be a recording from Youtube.

Following the broadcast, at 4.32pm, Isle of Wight rescue crews including the Sandown and Shanklin Independent Lifeboat, Ventnor Coastguard Rescue Team and the Needles National Coastwatch Institution were scrambled to find the apparently stricken vessel.

The UK Coastguard helicopter, based at Lee-on-the-Solent, also joined the search, along with other vessels in the area.

The search covered an area of 50 nautical miles, the range of the Bonchurch aerial, but nothing was found.

A UK Coastguard spokesperson said the hoaxer had struck several times before, broadcasting a similar appeal from the same aerial, and the incident had been reported to the police.

"It's not the first time it's happened. The broadcast was later confirmed as a recording from YouTube, and a hoax, but we have to treat it as genuine when it comes in," said the spokesperson.