YOUNGSTERS who want to learn to sail this summer could be left disappointed after the theft of a safety boat from an East Lancashire club.

The rib boat, which is launched while lessons are taking place on the Rishton reservoir to make sure learners stay safe, was taken by thieves who towed the vessel away.

Geoff Peake, a member at the East Lancashire Sailing Club, said some summer programmes would have to be cancelled if the boat could not be found or replaced.

He said: “Everybody is pretty fed up and there could be some disappointed kids this summer.

“During the school holidays, there are usually more programmes for kids, but potentially we will have to reduce the opportunities for them to learn to sail. There will be a reduction in the number of boats that can sail at any one time for safety reasons.”

The thieves used metal cutting tools to get into the Reservoir Side site between 9.30pm on Saturday and early on Sunday, police said.

The boat, an Avon Searider Rib, was on a steel-framed blue road trailer and had an out board motor.

To replace the boat, which has an orange hull, with a new one would cost more than £10,000.

Mr Peake said he believed the thieves knew what they were looking for.

He said: “I would have thought it would have taken them a while to do. They obviously had cutting tools and they only took that one boat.

“Whoever has taken it obviously knew what they wanted and knew there was a value.

“They must have had quite a substantial vehicle, so if anyone saw anybody towing a boat that night, I would ask them to contact the police.”

An investigation has been launched and a police spokesman said: “The offenders approached the sailing club and cut through a padlock on the main gates and took a trailer and a boat.

“We would appeal for any witnesses who might have information about this theft to contact police.”

Anybody with information should call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.