UK & World News

  • 22 May 2014, 18:26

Missing Yachtsmen Search: Floating Debris Found

Debris has been found by a vessel searching for the missing yacht that is thought to have capsized with four Britons on board.

The US Coast Guard told Sky News a catamaran, Malisi, had discovered random floating objects within the search area- but could not confirm it was from the missingCheeki Rafiki.

Steve Warren, 52, Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 23, and Paul Goslin, 56, were on board the 40ft yacht when it ran into difficulties a week ago while returning to the UK from a regatta in Antigua.

A statement posted on the Malisi's Facebook page said: "We spotted a wooden plank about 1-1.5m long and 20-30cm wide with what seemed like drilled holes or dark regular and symmetric dark spots along the middle (like a wall coat hanger with hooks).

"The colour was medium brown with nothing growing on it (new). I can best describe it like a boat saloon table lid under which one stores bottles. Or it could be the floor board in the centre of the saloon under the table and above the keel.

"It went right between our two hulls. We had to sail downwind and west for a few minutes in order to fix the pad-eye of the dinghy where the hoisting chain was attached to as the through-bolt had just snapped."

A spokeswoman for the US Coast Guard said: "I can confirm that we have received reports (of debris) from the sailing vessel Malisi.

"They have found some debris in the search area. We can't tell at this time if they are from theCheeki Rafiki as there were no identifying marks on them.

"Obviously it is a possibility, and we are definitely treating it very seriously and incorporating that into our search, but I can't say for certain that it was from the Cheeki Rafiki."

An initial search for the stricken vessel was called off on Sunday amid bad weather in the Atlantic Ocean, but began again on Tuesday after pressure from the men's families.

More than 200,000 people also signed a petition demanding the operation be resumed.

And the families of the four sailors have written to President Barack Obama to thank him for his support.

Arriving for a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the families confirmed they would also visit the US embassy to deliver a letter thanking the American authorities and Mr Obama for continuing with the search.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Male's father, Graham, said: "The UK government and the US Coast Guard are right behind us, which we're so grateful for.

"We know there's going to be some more resources going out there, but of course it's a large area to cover and they're going to continue their support."

Gloria Hamlet, the partner of Mr Warren, told Sky News she hoped the debris sighting would aid the search.

She said: "If it can be identified as the CheekiRafiki then that means we can use that position to calculate the drift patterns and things like that. We remain hopeful."

And Mr Warren's sister, Kay Coombes, told Sky News: "We're keeping our fingers crossed today for something.

"I heard the captain of the catamaran this morning saying he'd found some debris, so hopefully that can point the coastguard in the right direction now, so maybe they can refine their search a bit.

"Obviously I'm hoping they'll search for as long as they possibly can, but I'm realistic, they can't search forever, we know that.

"They're obviously putting an awful lot of resources into this now - the Canadians, the Americans and the RAF. We're ever-hopeful."

The search, around 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, now involves six ships and seven planes - including three Hercules aircraft from the US Coastguard in North Carolina, Moody Air Force Base in Georgia and one from the Royal Air Force.

So far it has covered an area of 11,800 square miles.

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