A SEARCH for four Britons feared dead after the yacht they were sailing capsized in the mid-Atlantic Ocean has been called off.
The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki, a 40ft racer/cruiser, ran into difficulties some 620 miles east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts on Thursday while returning from the prestigious Antigua Sailing Week regatta.
Contact with Andrew Bridge, 21, James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, was lost in the early hours of Friday while they were diverting to the Azores.
US and Canadian aircraft and merchant vessels looked for them throughout Friday and Saturday but have now called off the search.
The men were sailing the Cheeki Rafiki back from Antigua for Southampton-based yacht charter company Stormforce Coaching.
A US Coastguard spokesman said: “We searched with multiple assets over 4,000 square miles for pings from the vessel’s personal locator beacons. After receiving no more transmissions, we believe that we would have found them by now if we were going to find them.”
One of the commercial vessels taking part in the search, the 1,000ft container ship Maersk Kure, discovered debris thought to be the overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki but did not stop to inspect it because nobody was seen on board.
Weather conditions in the area where the men went missing were described as treacherous, with winds in excess of 50 knots, waves of 15 to 20 feet and visibility of under a mile.
Mr Bridge, from Farnham, in Surrey, Mr Goslin, from West Camel, Somerset, Mr Warren, from Bridgwater, also in Somerset, and Mr Male, from Southampton, were all described as “very experienced offshore yachtsmen”.
Stormforce director Doug Innes said that the yacht had first started taking on water on Thursday but the skipper was in contact and the crew were keeping the situation stable.
He said that it was possible that the crew took to a liferaft after contact was lost on Friday.
He added: “Although the search efforts co-ordinated by Boston were exceptional we are devastated that the search has now been called off so soon.
“Our thoughts are with the four yachtsmen and their families and we hope and pray for them all.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a missing yacht off the East Coast of the USA with four British nationals on board.”