Reports of people in the water with an upturned boat in Tauranga sparked an emergency response this afternoon, though the pair were apparently able to wade to safety.

A police communications spokeswoman said a call came in just before 1pm of an upturned vessel in the estuary between Rotary Park, Maungatapu, and James Cook Drive, Welcome Bay.

Emergency services were responding and searching for two people seen in the water, she said.

The Tauranga Coastguard and TECT Trustpower Rescue Helicopter also responded.

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A reporter at the scene said two learner sailors had ventured out on a small sail boat when they were caught by wind and tipped over.

Both sailors ended up in the water, which was chest deep.

People who lived in the area saw the young men in the water and called emergency services, unaware the men could touch the bottom and were wading their way to shore, the reporter said.

The men and boat eventually made their way to Rotary Park. Other, more experienced, sailors arrived and planned to sail the boat back across the estuary to where it had been launched, the reporter said.

A police spokeswoman said said no one was hurt and everyone was accounted for.