A major search is under way off the west Cork coast for two men and a woman.

The three, two of whom are believed to be in their 70s, and one in their 80s, were on a yacht which was supposed to return to Schull at 7pm this evening.

When there was no sign of the yacht or the occupants, the alarm was raised by a friend who was due to meet them ashore.

Two contact telephone numbers on the yacht were tried by the coastguard but all attempts to contact the vessel have so far failed.

The boat had left Schull this afternoon for a small trip around Long Island and back to Schull.

The search area is concentrated off rugged coastline, which contains many inlets and islands.

Baltimore lifeboat has been tasked as have a number of other lifeboats.

The Shannon based rescue helicopter along with the LE Ciara are also involved in the search operation.