Missing yacht: Families of missing sailors plead for more time after US Coast Guard calls off search


The US Coast Guard on Monday rejected tearful pleas from the families of four sailors missing in the mid-Atlantic to resume the search operation, as a photograph emerged of what is thought to be their capsized yacht just feet away from a passing cargo ship.

The Cheeki Rafiki, a 39ft racing yacht, was returning to the UK from Antigua when it began to take on water on Thursday. The crew managed to set off two distress signals and their families believe the experienced sailors would have been able to get into a life raft.

US and Canadian aircraft, assisted by three merchant vessels, looked for the men throughout Friday and Saturday, but called off the search on Sunday at 5am local time, amid stormy weather, despite suggestions that the men could still be alive in a life raft or trapped inside the boat’s upturned hull.

Some 4,000 square miles of the sea were scanned for the "very well-equipped" vessel's two personal location GPS beacons, until no more transmissions were received from the small devices which have a short battery life.

A Foreign Office spokesman declined to comment when asked if it had asked the US Coast Guard to start looking for the sailors again.

“The US Coast Guard has given us assurances that they have conducted a fully exhaustive search,” he said.

The Foreign Office added that the UK Coastguard “supports” its American counterpart’s decision to suspend the search.

The upturned hull of what is thought to be the Cheeki Rafiki was photographed by a container ship, the Maersk Kure, which passed by within a few feet. The 1,000ft cargo vessel diverted to the area where the yacht was believed to be at the request of the US Coast Guard, but did not attempt to check whether anyone was still trapped in the hull.

An official with Athens-based shipping company Costamare, which runs the Maersk Kure, told The Independent that the ship would not have been able to use one of its lifeboats to check the yacht.

The missing men, Paul Goslin, 56, Steve Warren, 52, both from Somerset, James Male, 23, from Southampton, and Andrew Bridge, 21, from Farnham, Surrey,  were all described as experienced sailors.

Mary Bridge, the mother of 21-year-old Mr Bridge, told BBC News: "I'm a bit numb actually. We wanted him back.

"We know they've worked hard for two days but my husband and I and my other son and the other families all wish them to resume the search for these four men."

Her husband, David, added: "The weather has improved so they should restart their search. We all think they're in the life raft. One personal beacon was set off, and when that died they set another personal beacon off, which would suggest they were somewhere safe enough to be able to do so."

Cressida Goslin, whose husband Paul was among the crew, highlighted a petition which has gathered over 23,000 signatures in less than 24 hours urging a continuation of the search.

Claire Goslin, Mr Goslin's daughter, was amongst those who have signed the petition.

"One of the sailors is my dad and we cannot give up! He is my world and we need to start this search again!!!" she wrote.

Contact was lost with the yachtsmen on Friday when they were diverting to the Azores Contact was lost with the yachtsmen on Friday when they were diverting to the Azores (Google Maps)
Mr Male's father, Graham Male, mirrored Mr and Mrs Bridge's comments during an interview with ITV Meridian, and also said there was evidence that the crew had acted in a reasoned manner.

"When they were set off they were set off in a timed position, they reserved their resources, they waited until the first beacon had run out before they actually set the second beacon - that's rational-thinking people.

"We know they are very qualified and they have certainly had a lot of training. These aren't your average weekend sailors, they are sailors that are professional, we know they would have had every piece of equipment and they would have every chance to get on that life raft," said Mr Male, adding he was urging the Government to put further pressure on the US Coastguard.

Kay Coombes, the sister of Mr Warren who works as a project manager for an electrical company in Wncanton, Somerset, said that she and their mother, Margaret Warren, were convinced that he was still alive.

She added that their mother was very upset and added: "It's very, very difficult, especially being so far away."

On Tuesday, the team shared one of their last blog posts on Facebook, reading: "And yesterday we did it ... we turned east for home, completing our first 1,000 miles [which] was celebrated with a release of a cherished beach ball with a note inside, I hope it doesn't get home before us!

"We are already thinking of home and the ones we love and miss, you know who you are!"

Paul Goslin and James Male are experienced sailors Paul Goslin and James Male are experienced sailors
Mr Bridge, who is from Farnham in Surrey, was being paid by Southampton-based yacht training and charter company Stormforce Coaching for his role as captain, a spokeswoman for the firm said.

He had taken part in Antigua Week together with Mr Goslin, from West Camel, Somerset, Mr Warren, from Bridgwater, also in Somerset, and Mr Male, from Southampton, all described as "very experienced offshore yachtsmen".

Doug Innes, director of Southampton-based Stormforce Coaching, which manages the yacht, said the search operation had been “exceptional”.

“We are devastated that search has been called off so soon after the abandonment to a life raft," he added.

Andrew Pindar, who runs the GAC Pindar sailing team, pointed to the successful  rescue of Tony Bullimore, a sailor who capsized in  the Indian Ocean in the 1990s and was trapped for  several days.

“I don’t know what has happened in this particular case and wouldn’t want to speculate, but if nobody has gone to look inside there is a clear worry that survivors could have still been trapped there,” he said. Andrew Bridge and Steve Warren are experienced sailors Andrew Bridge and Steve Warren are experienced sailors

“It is horrific to think that it [the container ship] could have sailed on with the possibility that someone was still inside.”

The US Coast Guard said it had “suspended its active search pending further developments”.

“We are extremely disappointed that we were not  able to locate the sailors  during the course of this extensive search.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families  during this difficult time,” said Captain Anthony Popiel,  1st Coast Guard District Chief of Response.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are aware of a missing yacht off the East Coast of the USA with four British nationals on board.

"We are in continual contact with the US Coastguard and are providing consular assistance to the families."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine