Thirty people on board the Astrid tall ship were rescued off the Cork coast after their ship hit rocks and started taking on water.

A major emergency operation got under way after the 42-metre Dutch training vessel hit rocks and began taking on water.

Thirty people on board the tall ship were rescued.

The RNLI and coastguard responded to the situation at Oysterhaven, near Kinsale, after midday.

Two search and rescue helicopters were dispatched to the scene while lifeboats from Kinsale, Crosshaven, Courtmacsherry and Ballycotton were also involved in the rescue.

There were strong winds in the area at the time.

The Courtmacsherry Lifeboat said it rescued 18 crew members.

The other 12 crew members were picked up separately by the Spirit of Oysterhaven yacht and brought to Kinsale Pier.

A medical team from Cork University Hospital was sent to the scene to assess them, but there were no reports of injuries. 

The waters between Oysterhaven and Kinsale are particularly busy today as the Gathering yacht race, which left Dublin last Saturday, departed Oysterhaven for Kinsale earlier today.

The RNLI said it was still uncertain why the Astrid got into difficulties.

Irish Coast Guard spokesman Declan Geoghegan paid tribute to the RNLI lifeboats and other rescue services that operated in poor conditions.

He said: "The operation was quite difficult, not alone because the area was busy with traffic, but also there was a four-metre swell and a blowing southwesterly force four to five.

"So it was a delicate operation to get all the casualties off the stricken vessel and I'd like to commend all those involved."

The vessel had visited Kinsale on a journey from Southampton to Cherbourg in France.

The Astrid was built in 1918 as a lugger and up to about 1975 she carried cargo on the Baltic Sea.

After a period under the Lebanese flag, which ended in a fire, she came into British hands in 1984.

She was completely overhauled and got her impressive rigging for Atlantic crossings as a training vessel.

The Astrid was then converted into a traditional, luxury sailing vessel.