Missing yacht: RAF Hercules plane joins search for sailors

Aircraft expected to arrive at the Atlantic search area at around 2pm

An RAF plane has joined the search for four British sailors missing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The C130 Hercules aircraft took off from RAF Brize Norton at 5am on its way to Lajes in Portugal, where it will be refuelled before flying to the search area over the Atlantic, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. It is expected to arrive at the search area at around 2pm.

An spokesman said: "We can confirm that the UK will be providing military assistance in the search for the four British sailors.

"A C130 aircraft was deployed from RAF Brize Norton at 0500 on May 21 and has started to move towards the search area where it will join the international search and rescue effort."

The move comes after the US coastguard restarted its search for the missing men following pressure from the UK Government, the families of the crew, figures from across the world of sailing and an online petition that attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

The four men - experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, and crew members James Male, 23, from Southampton, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset - have been missing since their yacht the Cheeki Rafiki ran into difficulties about 620 miles east of Cape Cod on Thursday while returning to the UK from a regatta in Antigua.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "The RAF's contribution to the search operation for the four missing British sailors will provide additional capability and resilience to the resumed search led by US and Canadian forces.

"We all hope that the extensive resources being provided by our allies and the further support from the UK can help locate the missing yachtsmen as soon as possible."

Since resuming their search, US air crews hunting for the four British sailors have scoured almost 3,000 square miles.

The US coastguard said four vessels, two US aircraft and a Canadian military plane, were involved in searching an area about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts by air and sea.

In a statement, it said: "Air crews have searched a total of 2,878 square miles since the search has resumed. The square mileage for ship searches is still being determined.

"Weather on scene is 6ft seas with winds at less than 10 knots."

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

A further three ships and a US Air Force plane were on the way to assist, the coastguard added.

A search was initially launched after contact with the 40ft Cheeki Rafiki was lost in the early hours of Friday when it diverted to the Azores.

The US coastguard, Canadian aircraft and three merchant vessels searched for them throughout Friday and Saturday, with some 4,000 square miles previously scanned for the vessel's two personal-location GPS beacons until no more transmissions were received from the small devices, which have a short battery life.

On Saturday, a cargo vessel which was helping with the search spotted and photographed an overturned hull which matched the description of the Cheeki Rafiki but reported no signs of people on board or a liferaft.

The search was called off on Sunday but restarted after intense pressure from the families and supporters.

Yesterday the sailors' relatives travelled to London to meet foreign minister Hugh Robertson and go to the US embassy, and they spoke of their delight that US authorities had agreed to continue the search.

Cressida Goslin, Mr Goslin's wife, said the families had been through an "emotional rollercoaster" since Friday.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mrs Goslin said hearing that the search would be resumed was "really overwhelming" and had brought "incredible" hope.

"It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful," she said.

She said her husband, an experienced sailor who has a coastal skipper certificate and a yacht master theory certificate, and the other men would be "coping well" as a team.

"We have got no reason to think they didn't make it to the lifeboat. They had advanced warning that there was a problem with the boat so we think they would have been prepared to evacuate the ship," she said.

"Social media and the petition have been fantastic because they have generated so much interest that lots of yachts have now headed to that area and family and other people have been contacting various merchant ships.

"It has been a fantastic support - everyone has joined in and there is more activity there."

Fighting for their loved ones are, from left, Cressida Goslin, wife of Paul Goslin, David Bridge, father of Andrew, Gloria Hamlet, girlfriend of Steve Warren and Graham Male, father of James Fighting for their loved ones are, from left, Cressida Goslin, wife of Paul Goslin, David Bridge, father of Andrew, Gloria Hamlet, girlfriend of Steve Warren and Graham Male, father of James

The C130 Hercules, based at RAF Brize Norton, is often referred to as the workhorse of the RAF's air transport fleet.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg defended the Government's reaction to the emergency.

"Ministers were immediately despatched to speak to the search and rescue authorities in the United States so there was absolutely no doubt at all in the minds of the decision-makers on the other side of the Atlantic what this Government felt on behalf of the families who, quite rightly, are in a state of terrible anguish.

"We did, I think, what people rightly would expect of the Government," he told a caller to his LBC radio phone-in who questioned whether enough had been done.

"I am told the British search and rescue specialists feel that Americans did what one would expect of the search and rescue services in that situation across such a vast area in very difficult weather conditions."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones