MORE than 20 boats were cut adrift in an act described as "mindless vandalism".

The Stour Sailing Club, in Manningtree, was targeted by yobs at high tide on Monday night.

During the cover of darkness, all of the club's boats on moorings were released into the river by crooks.

Despite the club having CCTV cameras, it was too dark to see the footage of the incident.

A Stour Sailing Club spokesman said the boats have gone up the river, out to sea or have washed up somewhere.

He said: "They have cut some of the lines and cast off some of the buoys too.

"Every boat has been cast a drift for about half a mile off the river.

"We have got people out on the water trying to get the boats back."

The club is trying to contact the owners of the boats, but some live in London and Cambridge.

Essex Police and Harwich Harbour have also been informed as the boats could cause a "major hazard" if they drift into Harwich Harbour.

He added: "People don't realise there are thousands of pounds worth of damaged boats floating around the area or out to sea.

"It's just mindless vandalism."

Ten boats have been found so far by members of the sailing club, but the other half are still out on the water.

The Stour Sailing Club also posted a Facebook message to its members with boats on moorings.

It read: "Overnight a large number of boats have gone adrift.

"All mooring holders with boats on the water need to individually check that all is in place and confirm or otherwise.

"If your boat has gone adrift please report it to the police online or via 101 using 'theft of boat' and get a crime number."

The club was last targeted in March when youths were caught on CCTV pulling a boat down a slope into the water in broad daylight.

Fuel tanks were also stolen from the club's safety boats earlier that day.

Essex Police has been contacted for further comment.