Two days after suspending its search for four British sailors who are missing after an apparent capsize 1,000 miles off Massachusetts, the Coast Guard has reversed course and resumed searching.
The First Coast Guard District in Boston announced that the search was on again as of 7:38 a.m. ET Tuesday.
The resumption comes after the British public complained that the initial search ended after just two days and that the men could be in a life raft.
An online petition urging the Coast Guard to resume the search gathered 200,000 signatures and stood at 214,585 as of midday Tuesday. Supporters created a Facebook page: “Don’t Give Up on Cheeki Rafiki.”
British celebrities, politicians and renowned bluewater sailors, such as Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Tracy Edwards, spoke in favor of restarting the search.
“I'm absolutely delighted they've resumed the search, appalled that it's taken the British public to force the prime minister to do something," Edwards told BBC News. "These men are experienced, fit, healthy, and they've got modern equipment. How sad they should've done all the right things … and then we failed them.”
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the renewed search for the crew of Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7 that was crossing the Atlantic after competing in Antigua Sailing Week.
"My thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, which has resumed its search for our missing yachtsmen," Cameron tweeted.
The four experienced sailors range in age from 21 to 56. Contact with skipper Andrew Bridge, 21, was lost last Friday as they diverted to the Azores, saying Cheeki Rafiki was taking on water.
Air temperature in the vicinity was 59 degrees and the water was 60 degrees, according to the Coast Guard.
Watchstanders from the command center in Boston were notified about 12:30 a.m. ET Friday of the activation of two 406 MHz personal locator beacons registered to Cheeki Rafiki. Air crews from North Carolina, Georgia and Canada, as well as commercial vessels, searched more than 4,000 square miles, according to the Coast Guard.
About noon on Saturday, the crew of the 1,000-foot container ship Maersk Kure found an overturned hull that matched the description of Cheeki Rafiki but saw no sign of the sailors, the Coast Guard said in a statement. In a photo taken by a crewmember, the sailboat’s keel appears to be missing.
The Coast Guard said “rescue crews located small debris fields, indicating that the search patterns were accurate, but there were no signs of life or a life raft.”
The active search was suspended at 5 a.m., Sunday after 53 hours.
“When conducting extended searches, the U.S. Coast Guard uses a survivability model that takes into account weather conditions, emergency equipment and the anticipated condition of the people for whom we are searching,” Capt. Anthony Popiel, chief of response for the First Coast Guard District, explained Monday.
“Based on the extreme conditions at sea, but assuming best-case emergency equipment, the estimated survival time past the time of distress was approximately 20 hours,” he said.