Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cheeki Rafiki Lost at Sea

Coast Guard: Hull of missing yacht found off Mass. 

Posted: May 23, 2014 10:40 AM EST
Updated: May 23, 2014 5:47 PM EST

A U.S. Navy warship has located the overturned hull of a British yacht that went missing last week in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but officials said Friday night's deadline to end the search remains in effect.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said a helicopter from the warship spotted the hull Friday afternoon, in an area roughly 1,000 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. A small boat crew confirmed it bore the name of the 40-foot Cheeki Rafiki.

The hull had previously been spotted by a container ship last Saturday. The Coast Guard, at the time, said there was no sign of the sailors or a life raft.

Simpson said Friday was the first time rescuers examined the hull, which had a breach where the keel had broken off.

A Navy swimmer found the boat's cabin completely flooded and its windows shattered. Simpson said the swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached below the waterline but got no response.

Simpson said confirmation of the overturned hull does not change its deadline for suspending the search. He said among the items rescuers are searching for is a bright-colored life raft.

The Coast Guard has said it would only extend the search beyond 10 p.m. EST if they find evidence the crew members are still alive. The search has involved American, British and Canadian vessels and aircraft.

The British Foreign Office said it has informed the missing sailors' families of the discovery. The Foreign Office said earlier Friday that the families were "saddened to hear that the US Coast Guard will be suspending the search. But they were prepared for the fact that this would have to happen."

The Cheeki Rafiki had had been returning to England from a regatta in Antigua when it reported trouble last Thursday. Contact with the crew was lost Friday, May 16. The crew included 22-year-old captain Andrew Bridge and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin.

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin (l-r) are all experienced yachtsmen 

We are saddened to hear the plight of the crew of Cheeki Rafiki.

News coming in today confirms the boat was taking on water on its Atlantic Crossing but contact was lost early on Friday as they diverted to the Azores and a coast guard search has now been called off.

They are feared to have capsized and abandoned to a life raft, Southampton charter firm Stormforce Coaching said, who are the official Managing Agents for the boat.

Updates can be found at 

Media inquiries are being handled by Louise Nicholls of the Royal Yachting Association

We are saddened by the news but remain hopeful that a renewed search effort will find the crew.


The Cheeki Rafiki, seen here in a photograph issued by the Royal Yachting Association, had taken part in Antigua Sailing Week 

Photo by Tim Wright 

The families of four British sailors missing since their yacht capsized in the Atlantic Ocean have appealed to the US Coastguard to resume their search.

Contact with the men was lost on Friday after they reported running into difficulties about 1,000 miles (1,600km) off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The US Coastguard-led air and sea search was called off on Sunday.

But MP Caroline Nokes said the families of the men were "absolutely convinced" they could still be alive.

'Saturated area'

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) 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.

They were returning from a Caribbean sailing event when their boat, the Cheeky Rafiki, began taking on water.

Ms Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, said the men were well-equipped and trained for an emergency.

She also said she had been in contact with the Foreign Office and it was "investigating every avenue it can do" to try to encourage the US Coastguard to act for longer.

The families were "desperately keen that the search be resumed, that although conditions are not good they're better than they were when the search started", she added.

"So they're keen to emphasise the life raft could well have been deployed, that the men are trained to survive this sort of eventuality and so really they're beseeching the US Coastguard to carry on with that search and just give them a bit more of a chance."

Holding out hope

Mr Warren's sister Kay Coombes told the BBC: "We appreciate everything that the US coastguard and the Canadian coastguard has already done but we would just like them to search a little bit longer."

She described the crew as "very strong" and said she believed they managed to escape to a life raft.

Mr Bridge's aunt Georgina Bridge told Sky News: "We are holding out great hope that Andrew and the guys on board Cheeki Rafiki will be found.

"We are hopeful that they were able to launch a life raft and that they are still on board that, so we would just really like the search to be resumed."

Speaking to the Times, Mr Male's father Graham Male said: "We just want them to continue searching."

Robin Knox Johnston, President of the Sail Training Association, said it was possible the men could still be alive.

He said life rafts were designed to be accessible in emergency situations and it was "very likely" they could have escaped.

Sea conditions

The crew ran into difficulties on Thursday while returning from Antigua Sailing Week.

They were delivering the vessel back after it participated in the week - one of the world's top regattas - when it started taking on water.

The RYA said typical supplies on a life raft would include survival suits, water, food, flares and a first aid kit.

Three US and Canadian aircraft and three merchant vessels looked for them on Friday and Saturday.

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.

The Foreign Office confirmed it was aware of the missing yacht: "We are in contact with the US Coastguard and have offered consular assistance to the families."

 Searching were crews from:

  • A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, HC-130 Hercules aircraft
  • A U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft, from Moody Air Force Base, in Valdosta, Georgia
  • A Canadian air national guard C-130 aircraft
  • The 600-foot motor vessel Teesta Spirit
  • The 652-foot motor vessel Georgia Highway
  • The 1,000-foot motor vessel Maersk Kure
 Read more here:

May 18, 2014 - 4:00am | By United States Coast Guard 

UPDATE: The Coast Guard has suspended its active search, pending further developments, for four sailors 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 5 a.m. Sunday.

Weather on scene is 50-knot winds and 15-foot seas.

Crews from the 600-foot Teesta Spirit and the 652-foot Georgia Highway diverted to assist.

The Coast Guard is searching for four sailors 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Friday.

Watchstanders from the 1st Coast Guard District command center in Boston were notified at approximately 12:30 a.m., Friday, of two 406MHz personal locator beacons registered to the 40.7-foot U.K.-flagged sailing vessel Cheeki Rafiki. See the photo below of a sister-ship. 

The Cheeki Rafiki's agent in the U.K. also told the U.S. Coast Guard the last message they received from the crew stated they were taking on water with four people on board. 

A Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew immediately launched to locate the sailing vessel.

The district command center watchstanders also contacted available vessels in the area to assist. Crews from the 600-foot Teesta Spirit and the 652-foot Georgia Highway diverted to assist.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, also launched a Canadian Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to assist in the search.

The Hercules crew arrived on scene at approximately 8:30 a.m. The crew continued to search through the morning and located small pieces of debris, but no sign of the sailors. The air crew departed the area for Halifax, Nova Scotia, to refuel and swap flight crews.

"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," said Capt. Anthony Popiel, 1st Coast Guard District Chief of Response. "We are especially grateful to have the merchant vessel assistance with the surface given the inclement weather."

Weather on scene is 50-knot winds and 15-foot seas.

The 1st Coast Guard District covers from New Jersey to Canada with search and rescue duties extending approximately 1,300 miles from shore. Units across the Northeast conduct more than 2,500 search and rescue cases in a year, and rescue more than 300 people.

The photo below is a similar Beneteau 40.7 from the company website.


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