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Four British Sailors Missing

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Four Britons are feared dead after the yacht they were sailing from the Caribbean to the UK is believed to have capsized in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.

The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki 40ft performance yacht were reported missing at sea after they lost contact with the yacht's charter firm as they returned from Antigua Sailing Week on Friday.

But the search was called off early this morning. A spokesman for the US Coastguard which led the search said he believed 'they would have found them by now if they were going to find them'.

The crew members have been named as skipper Andrew Bridge, 21, Paul Goslin, 56, James Male, 23 and Steve Warren, 52.

Mr Goslin is from West Camel, Somerset, while Mr Warren is from Bridgwater, also from Somerset. Mr Male is from Southampton and Mr Bridge is from Farnham, Surrey. 

Director of the British yacht training and charter firm Stormforce Coaching, which is based in Southampton, said the crew had got into difficulties on Thursday.

They then lost contact on Friday morning while they were diverting to the Azores. 

He said said US and Canadian aircraft and merchant vessels looked for the crew throughout Friday and Saturday, but he was now 'devastated' rescue teams had called off the search.

What is believed to be debris from the yacht was spotted during the search, but the rescue ship did not stop to inspect it because nobody was seen on board.

All men - who had been in Antigua for around ten days - were described as 'very experienced offshore yachtsmen', but only Mr Bridge was being paid by Stormforce for his role on the racer-cruiser yacht.

Mr Innes said: 'The yacht Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7, was on passage from the Caribbean to the UK with a crew of four yachtsmen. On Thursday she started taking on water.

'We were in contact with the skipper and, at the time, the yacht and crew were keeping the situation stable.

'They had not been able to ascertain where the water ingress was from and were diverting to the Azores.

'Unfortunately we lost contact during the early hours of Friday morning and we believe it is possible the crew abandoned to the life raft.

'Search and Rescue authorities were mobilised and a mixture of Canadian and US aircraft along with merchant vessels searched throughout Friday and Saturday.

'Although the search efforts co-ordinated by Boston were exceptional we are devastated that the search has now been called off so soon.

'Our thoughts are with the four yachtsmen and their families and we hope and pray for them all.'

A US Coastguard spokesman said two US and one Canadian aircraft had been helped by three commercial vessels until the search was called off at 5am local time.

The spokesman said: 'We searched with multiple assets over 4,000 square miles for pings from the vessel's personal locator beacons.

'After receiving no more transmissions we believe that we would have found them by now if we were going to find them.

'These beacons are small devices and the ones being used have a very short battery life.'

One of the commercial vessels taking part in the search, the 1,000ft container MAERSK KURE ship, discovered debris thought to be the overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki, but did not stop to inspect it because nobody was seen on board.

Weather conditions in the area where the men went missing were described as treacherous.

It included winds in excess of 50 knots, waves of 15 to 20 ft and visibility reduced to under a mile.

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 contact with the US Coastguard and have offered consular assistance to the families.'

*Original story and photos: Mail Online via Google News (search terms: missing British sailors)

* Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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