The 20-metre French stern trawler Eridan had been out fishing when it sent out the distress call at 2.08am on Sunday.
Because of the machinery failure, 230 metres of net that was still in the water and streaming out of the stern of the vessel had to be released. It was anchored to the sea bed and buoyed for later recovery.
When the four-person crew aboard the Eridan had finished releasing the net at 4.10am, a tow was established with the now neighbouring Selsey lifeboat and because of its size a decision was made to tow it to Portsmouth.
Selsey RNLI said that communications were poor during the whole incident due to the language barrier, and some messages had to be relayed via the French maritime organisation, the Cross Gris Nez.
Due to the tide, wet weather and rough seas, as well as the size of Eridan, towing was slow.
At 8am the UK Coastguard requested the Eridan to anchor in its position at that time, around six miles south west of Selsey Bill, and the tow be released by the lifeboat from Selsey.
A lifeboat from Bembridge was launched to stand by the Eridan until another French trawler arrived to tow it into Portsmouth Harbour.
Selsey lifeboat left the scene and was rehoused by 9am.
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