THREE men were rescued after spending 45 minutes in the icy seas off Studland on Sunday evening after they were all thrown into the water from a dinghy during Storm Freya.

Following a 999 call from a member of the public who spotted the stricken vessel at 4.30pm, the Swanage Coastguard Rescue Team and Swanage RNLI All Weather lifeboat went to the scene and found an upturned dinghy in the bay.

A spokesman for Swanage RNLI said: "The only other vessel in Studland Bay at the time was a yacht at anchor a little distance inshore of the dinghy’s position. The people on board appeared to be waving so the lifeboat went alongside to see if they had further information. It quickly transpired that the three people on board were actually the people who had been in the dinghy and had been in the water for around 45 mins."

He said the men has swam to the yacht to shelter from the strong westerly wind and two crew members of the lifeboat were put onto the vessel to assess the men's condition.

"They were all very very cold and required immediate evacuation," said the RNLI. "They were taken aboard the lifeboat and best speed was made to the ferry landing stage at the entrance to Poole Harbour. En route the casualties were dried off and put in to some dry clothing to help warm them up. Then they were transferred to ambulances for further treatment."

The lifeboat then returned to station via Studland to see if the dinghy could be located but they failed to find it.

After escorting the yacht owner back to his vessel, which was checked for damage, the lifeboat was released to return to Swanage.

Meanwhile, the Coastguard collected some personal items from the three rescued men that were found ashore and returned to station.

A spokesman said: "Without doubt had the member of public not spotted the men and dialled 999, along with the weather conditions at the time, this incident could have turned out a lot different."

He also thanked the crew of the Chain Ferry who stood by to assist in transporting the Coastguard Team.