Yacht, crew missing after Antigua Sailing Week

Published on May 18th, 2014

(May 18, 2014) – A search has been called off for four Britons missing in the Atlantic after their yacht began taking in water, reported BBC News.

The men were delivering the Beneteau First 40.7 Cheeki Rafiki to the UK after it had competed in 2014 Antigua Sailing Week on April 26-May 2.  Southampton-based Stormforce Coaching is the official Managing Agents for the boat. Click here for report from regatta organizers.

The crew ran into difficulties on Thursday (May 15) when it started taking on water.

“We were in contact with the skipper and at the time the yacht and crew were keeping the situation stable,” said Stormforce director Doug Innes. “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.”

US Coastguard spokesman Rob Simpson said it had “saturated the area” in a two-day search and “we would have found them” if it had been possible.

The Royal Yachting Association named the four crew members as Andrew Bridge, 21, from Farnham, Surrey, the yacht’s skipper; Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset; Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and 23-year-old James Male, from Southampton. It described all four as “very experienced offshore yachtsmen”.

Three US and Canadian aircraft and three merchant vessels looked for them on Friday and Saturday about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Innes said the search efforts had been “exceptional” but the company was “devastated that the search has now been called off so soon”.

In a press release, the US Coastguard said the search area had involved approximately 4,146 square miles and it was “extremely disappointed” not to have found the sailors. Winds at the start of the search were said to have been blowing at more than 50mph, the sea reached heights of up to 20ft and visibility was reduced to under a mile.

“It is extremely challenging to respond to a distress case so far off shore, which is why it takes a joint effort with our international partners to put forward an effective search,” it said.

Coast guard spokesman Mr Simpson told the BBC on Sunday that two of the yachtmen’s locator beacons had been activated, providing it with some “general GPS co-ordinates”. However, they had not been able to link any debris found to the Cheeki Rafiki.

Here is a statement by Stormforce Coaching:
We remain devastated that the four missing crew from the yacht Cheeki Rafiki, Andrew, James, Paul and Steve have still not been found and that the US Coastguard has suspended the search

We were informed on Sunday (May 18, 2014) that a capsized yacht had been found in the search area by the merchant ship M/V MAERSK KURE. However, the sea state prevented them from closely examining it which is very disappointing but understandable.

We remain hopeful that they are in the life raft although conditions have been poor in the Atlantic which would be very challenging for them.

We are working, with the crew’s families, to try and persuade the US Coastguard to resume the search.

We are very grateful to the M/V MAERSK KURE which volunteered to remain and continue the search on Sunday until such time as it was stood down in the evening.

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