RNLI lifeboats from Shoreham, Brighton and Selsey were launched to help search for the two men on Sunday (August 22).
Shoreham’s all-weather and inshore lifeboats were launched just after midnight to look for a small, rigid inflatable craft (RIB) with two men on board.
An RNLI spokeswoman said the RIB had left Worthing Beach near the pier for a fishing trip on Saturday morning and had been due to retun by about 8pm.
After boat did not return when expected and attempts to contact it were unsuccessful, the lifeboats started a search pattern and were joined by the Coastguard helicopter and the Selsey all-weather lifeboat, which headed to a position south of Worthing.
The spokeswoman said: “At this stage it was unknown where the persons had gone fishing, so the search area was initially south of Worthing including the Rampion wind farm.
“Shoreham and Littlehampton coastguard rescue teams were conducting a shoreline search. The search area increased and Newhaven and Brighton lifeboats joined the search.”
The Coastguard helicopter returned to base to refuel and, shortly after returning, just before 4am, located the craft off Brighton with both men on board.
“The Brighton lifeboat proceeded to the position and came alongside the vessel,” the spokeswoman added. “The pair were okay apart from being wet and cold and said they had run out of fuel and tried paddling ashore.
“The casualties were taken aboard the Shoreham all-weather lifeboat and taken back to Shoreham lifeboat station and checked over. Brighton lifeboat took their vessel to safety. All other units were stood down to return to station.”
Shoreham lifeboat second coxswain Simon Tugwell said: “This was an intensive major air and sea search involving five lifeboats, the coastguard helicopter and coastguard teams.
“The men were extremely lucky that they were spotted by the helicopter and thanks to all the efforts of those involved this turned out to be a positive outcome.”