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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower