US ship finds hull of missing yacht

Cheeki Rafiki's upturned hull The US Coast Guard issued photographs of Cheeki Rafiki's upturned hull overnight on Friday

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The hull of the missing UK yacht Cheeki Rafiki has been found in the North Atlantic by a US Navy warship, the US Coast Guard has said.

A surface swimmer identified the name on the back of the boat and knocked on the hull but there was no response.

The Coast Guard said the yacht's life raft had not been deployed and was still in its storage space.

The four-strong crew were returning to the UK from Antigua when it hit problems on 15 May.

They are Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset; Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset; skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham, Surrey; and 22-year-old James Male, from Romsey, Hampshire.

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

Last Thursday, the sailors contacted the yacht's owner to say they were taking on water and diverting to the Azores.

Contact was lost the following day and it is thought the yacht may have capsized. Locator beacons activated by the crew indicated they were in a position 1,000 miles east of Massachusetts on the morning of Friday 16 May.

'Cabin flooded'

The US Coast Guard said a warship helicopter crew located the hull 1,000 miles from Massachusetts.

The warship was diverted and a boat crew sent to examine the boat.

The BBC's Nick Bryant said the swimmer banged on the hull, but received no response

They found the cabin of the yacht was flooded and the windows shattered. The yacht's keel was also broken, causing a breach in the hull, a spokesman added.

The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki

An image showing the life raft still in position had been "shared with and acknowledged by the [men's] families", the Coast Guard said later on Friday night.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was keeping in close contact with the US Coast Guard and had informed family members of the missing men of the discovery.

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Twelve-person life raft

A raft, such as that on board the Cheeki Rafiki, is required to meet the international standard ISO 9650, which stipulates how the craft must be constructed and what it must have on board. The rafts are highly visible and buoyant and can be boarded quickly in an emergency.

12-person life raft
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The US Coast Guard has confirmed that it suspended its search overnight for the yacht.

An RAF Hercules plane is set to keep looking for the Cheeki Rafiki on Saturday.

'Stay positive'

Speaking after a meeting with officials earlier on Friday at the Foreign Office in London, the families of the men said they were staying strong.

Mr Male's father, Graham, said "we have got to stay positive", adding: "We know our boys are out there".

Map showing the search for the missing yacht

The Foreign Office said the British Hercules C-130 plane would continue scouring the search area "for one more day" on Saturday.

"They will be co-ordinating closely with the US Coast Guard on the search area," it said.

It said the US had "gone above and beyond" in its effort to locate the yacht and its British crew.

The plane, which was deployed on Tuesday and is operating from Portugal's Azores islands in the Atlantic, was expected to end its search at about 22:00 BST on Saturday, the Foreign Office added.

It is understood it will probably fly two search missions on Saturday - one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Tuesday's decision to resume the search followed an official request from the UK government. An online petition, set up to put pressure on the US Coast Guard, had attracted more than 200,000 signatures.

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