A woman reported missing after sailing her new yacht through "treacherous weather" was believed to have ignored warnings about her skill level and the conditions at sea.

Ona Unwin was the sole person onboard the Seagair when she left Mousehole in Cornwall on Saturday evening. She had been due to arrive at Bideford in Devon on Sunday night, having circumnavigated the bottom of the Cornish coastline before heading north, but relatives became anxious when she failed to show up.

The 65-year-old was said to have dismissed safety warnings about the forthcoming weather when she bought the 31ft vessel from Falmouth Yacht Brokers on Thursday last week.

Proprietor Jerry Hobkirk today said he would not have let Ms Unwin sail had he known she would have ignored his pleas not to set off until the weather had subsided. He also said Ms Unwin was advised to embark on a sailing refresher course before taking to the water - something the missing woman also appears to have ignored.

Mr Hobkirk said: "The weather was treacherous this weekend, even for some of the more experienced sailors. I simply cannot understand what she was thinking when she left the harbour (in Mousehole), and against the advice of the sailing school. She seemed determined to fail."

Falmouth Coastguard said neither the skipper nor her yacht have been seen since the alarm was raised. Three RNLI lifeboats from Penlee, Sennen Cove and St Ives have been requested to launch and are searching for the missing yacht.

Mr Hobkirk said the 130-mile journey from Mousehole to Bideford would have tested even experienced sailors, let alone in difficult conditions.

He added: "I was amazed when I found out that she had set sail. If I had known, we would have stopped her. There were strong winds and rough seas on a piece of coast that has very few escape routes. If you get into difficulties there aren't very many ports to play your 'get out of jail' card with."

Steve Huxley, search and rescue communications manager with Falmouth Coastguard, said the skipper left Mousehole on Saturday evening onboard her newly purchased vessel. He added: "We understand that she was heading for Bideford. We have been unable to find her and are very concerned for her safety."

Members of the public who may have seen or heard from the skipper of the Seagair should contact Falmouth Coastguard on 01326 317 575.