U.S. Coastguard to resume search for four missing British sailors in Atlantic after nearly 200,000 sign petition
The U.S. Coastguard has resumed the search for four missing British sailors after nearly 200,000 people signed a petition begging authorities not to give up on the Cheeki Rafiki crew.
The news comes after more than 40 private boats vowed to start their own search for Andrew Bridge, Paul Goslin, Steve Warren and James Male who have been missing in the Atlantic since Friday.
The U.S. Coastguard told the family of Somerset sailor Steve Warren early Tuesday afternoon that they will be liaising with Canadian and British authorities and would relaunch the search from the air imminently.
Petty officer Jennifer Robertson said: 'The U.S. Coast Guard has resumed search efforts for the missing crew of the Cheeki Rafiki. More information will released as updates on the search effort are available.'
Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to applaud the move.
He tweeted Tuesday afternoon: 'My thanks to the US Coastguard, which has resumed its search for our missing yachtsmen. @USCG'
Andrew Bridge's grandmother Valerie said the family was 'delighted' by the news.
'It is at least something and that is all we were asking for, all we wanted was another search,' she said.
'It might not come to anything but people want them to do it and they are trying. It seemed too quick, just two days and we were saying "if only they could do it (search) for a bit longer." You never know what could happen.'
Dan Carpenter, son-in-law of Steve Warren, said: 'We are holding out hope. We are aware that it is still a long shot but while there is some hope, we are concentrating on that.'
Earlier Tuesday, the father of one of the missing yachtsmen made a direct plea to Mr Cameron to keep looking for the missing men.
'These are guys that are an inspiration to Britain, they are your Britain. We owe it to them. We look after our own people, we need to get out there and search for them,' James Male's dad Graham Male said on ITV News.
Meanwhile, private yachts from around the world are set to descend on the last known location of the 40ft Cheeki Rafiki, with crew members on board the vessels keeping in constant contact with the missing men's families.
The powerful online petition was set up on Monday, a day after the U.S. Coastguard called off their search for the crew saying the men were unlikely to have survived in the severe weather for more than 20 hours.
The petition called on the American authorities to restart the search for the four yachtsmen.
Tony Bullimore, who was rescued in the Southern Ocean in 1997 following a grueling five days clinging to the hull of his capsized boat, insisted the U.S. couldn't give up because there was not yet any proof the sailors were dead.
The 75-year-old told the London Evening Standard: 'They're obviously not in a very good situation. They could be in the life raft or they could be hanging about in the boat waiting for someone to rescue them.
'They can't go on searching forever, but there are enough good reasons to continue.
'There is no proof that they are not still alive, in the life boat or hanging on to the hull. One has got to be on their side, and I would rally to the Coastguard to get back out there.'
The separate private search to find the men has been described as channeling the 'Spirit of Dunkirk' - an evacuation during World War Two which saw stranded allied troops rescued by a flotilla of pleasure boats and civilian craft.
Kay Coombes, the sister of Steve Warren said she has received an email telling her of the planned mission.
The 46-year-old said: 'I got an email that said there were eight individual boats in one group, and a further 32 were set to come in a rally from Antigua.
'They are all making the crossing, some are catamarans I think. Other than that I really don't know what is happening, but we can only hold out hope they will find something.
'They said they are going to keep their eyes peeled for anything that may help us, so we are clinging on to that at the moment.
'They are very aware of what is going on so I know they will do their best.'
The yachtsmen were travelling back to Southampton from a regatta in Antigua when contact was lost with them in the early hours of Friday morning.
On board were captain Bridge, 22, along with Male, 23, Warren, 52, and Goslin, 56.
It is thought they were around 620 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when the yacht began taking on water.
They told their base they were diverting to the Azores, but contact was lost in the early hours of Friday morning.
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 life raft.
On Sunday the U.S. Coastguard gave up their hunt for the men, saying it did not have the capability for a large-scale search.
The online petition urging them to resume the rescue was backed by four-time Olympic gold medal sailor Ben Ainslie as well Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose constituency covers the area where the Bridge family live.
Mr Hunt tweeted: 'Desperate 4 families of missing yachtsmen, one from Farnham. I know US Coastguard has done masses but pls don't stop looking. 2 soon 2 give up.'
Entrepreneur and adventurer Sir Richard Branson had publicly called on vessels near the area to keep a lookout.
'One of the sailors is my dad and we cannot give up! He is my world and we need to start this search again!!!,' added Claire Goslin, Paul Goslin's daughter.
Captain Anthony Popiel from the U.S. Coastguard said earlier that it had been a difficult decision to suspend the search but the estimated survival time after a distress alert in extreme conditions at sea was about 20 hours and the crew had searched for 53 hours.
The U.S. Coastguard's original decision was also backed by British counterparts, who believe no more could have been done.
Keith Oliver, head of maritime operations at HM Coastguard said the American's had done 'all they could' to locate the stricken crew.
He added that he had been in regular contact with the US Coast Guard since the early hours of Friday morning.
'Based on the information provided to us, we believe that the US Coast Guard has done all they can to locate the stricken yacht and her crew', he explained.
'Our thoughts are with the family and friends of these four sailors at this extremely difficult time.'
*For an insight into why the search should continue, read sailing columnist Richard Donkin's blogpost 'Cheeki Rafiki- the search must go on.'