The Coast Guard is being called upon to resume its search for four British sailors whose 40-foot sailboat apparently capsized 1,000 miles off Massachusetts in 15-foot seas and winds surpassing 50 knots.
The families of the four sailors, who were said to be experienced and sailing home to England after competing in Antigua Sailing Week, have called on U.S. and Canadian authorities to resume searching for the men. Their calls have been backed by British politicians and celebrities as an online petition reached 10,000 signatures.
"They are four strong-minded, physically strong sailors. They knew they were in difficulties and had every opportunity to get into the life raft, which would have had provisions for several days,” Kay Coombes, the sister of missing sailor Steve Warren, told The Telegraph newspaper. “But if no one is looking for them, they won't be found."
In that same article, legendary bluewater sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said it was “very likely” that the crew were in a life raft.
“We stow life rafts where they are easily accessible. They have also got hydrostatic release valves on them. If the boat sinks, they automatically release them and let them float to the surface. Everyone trains for this; every yachtsman goes and does a sea survival course,” he told Britain’s Radio 5. “This was an experienced crew. They almost certainly would have done that. They would have known the score.”
Contact with the sailors — skipper Andrew Bridge, 21, James Male, 23, Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56 — was lost last Friday as they diverted to the Azores, saying their boat, a Beneteau First 40.7 named Cheeki Rafiki, was taking on water.
Air temperature in the vicinity was 59 degrees, and the water was 60 degrees.
Watchstanders from the First Coast Guard District 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 over 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 hull appears to be missing its keel.
The captain of the Maersk Kure reportedly has been criticized for failing to stop and investigate or recover the yacht.
On Sunday morning, after more than two days of searching, the Coast Guard said it was suspending its search.
“Despite the deep considerations that go into suspending a search, the decision is never easy. With sincere compassion for the families of these four men, our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time,” said Coast Guard Capt. Anthony Popiel, chief of response for the First Coast Guard District.
Claire Goslin, the daughter of missing sailor Paul Goslin, told The Guardian newspaper that evidence suggests the sailors are in the life raft with supplies that will last them a few days.
"The weather conditions are improving, and we pray they are still out there alive and well to be found. My family wishes to gain as much support as possible so my dad, along with the other three sailors, can get home safe," she said.
The crew had joked on social media about their lengthening beards and the food they were eating on their voyage back to Southampton.
A blog post that was added to Facebook on Tuesday — one of their last — read:
And yesterday we did it … we turned east for home, completing our first 1,000 miles, [which] was celebrated with a release of a cherished beach ball with a note inside. I hope it doesn't get home before us!
We are already thinking of home and the ones we love and miss, you know who you are!
Supporters have created a Facebook page: “Don’t Give Up on Cheeki Rafiki.”