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Missing yacht: British sailor will be 'dearly missed by everyone who knew him'

The search for the four missing yachtsmen was called off after the Cheeki Rafiki was found with its life raft unused

The family of Andrew Bridge has said he will be “dearly missed by everyone who knew him”, as hopes of finding the missing British crew of the Cheeki Rafiki all but faded.

The US Coast Guard has called off its search for the sailors after the wreck of the yacht was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, about 1,000 miles (1,609km) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Underwater imagery taken by a swimmer from a US Navy warship showed the raft clearly stowed in place, indicating it had not been deployed in an emergency.

Mr Bridge's family said in a statement on Saturday: “We are obviously shocked and deeply saddened by the news.

"Andrew will be dearly missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the families of the rest of the crew on the Cheeki Rafiki.

“We would like to thank everyone who's helped in the search for Andrew including the US Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RAF, Merchant vessels, the yachting community and the British and American Governments.

"We have been overwhelmed and strengthened by the public support we have received and would like to thank the media for their support and treating us in a respectful and dignified way.

“We will not be making any further comment at the moment. We would ask just for privacy at this difficult time.”

Mr Bridge, 22, was sailing back to the UK from a regatta in Antigua along with James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, when their vessel began taking on water on 15 May.

From left to right: Paul Gosling, James Male, Steve Warren and Andrew Bridge who are missing after the yacht ‘Cheeki Rafiki’ capsized in the mid-Atlantic Ocean

Contact with the crew was lost soon after they reported they were diverting to the Azores. It had been hoped the men had been able to board the vessel’s life raft.

Mr Warren's uncle, Albert Davey, told the BBC: “Prior to setting off on this return trip... the Cheeki Rafiki had won its class in the Antigua Yachting Regatta.

"It's not the ending we would want but we have got to gain some small consolation that Steve was doing what he thoroughly enjoyed doing and I think we have got to cling on to that."

Coast guard officials decided to call off the search for the men, unless there was new information or sightings which suggested they would still be alive.

But "none of the developments indicate that to be the case", a spokesman said.

Official British efforts to find the missing men have also now been cancelled.

Prime Minster David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki after the sad news that its hull has been found with the life raft unused.

“My sincere thanks to the US Coast Guard for leading the international search with great dedication - and to the US Navy, the Canadian authorities and to our own RAF C-130 aircraft who took part in it.”

Additional reporting by Press Association