Thousands of supporters have signed a petition for the US Coast Guard to give the sailors of Cheeki Rafiki a ‘chance to be found’. A campaign to encourage the US Coast Guard to resume searching for four British sailors is gaining momentum.
More than 27,400 supporters – and counting – have signed the petition, which can be found here. Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau First 40.7 yacht from Southampton, was returning home to the United Kingdom with a crew of four, following a successful race campaign in the Carribean.
The four crew members have been named as Andrew Bridge, 21, from Farnham, Surrey, the yacht’s skipper; Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset; Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and 23-year-old James Male, from Southampton.
On Thursday, the skipper, Andrew Bridge reported they were taking on water. The experienced offshore yachtsmen believed that the situation was stable but amended their course to head for the Azores. On Friday morning, Southampton-based Stormforce Coaching lost contact with them.
The US Coastguard carried out an extensive two-day search before making the ‘difficult decision to suspend search efforts.’
Friends and family of the sailors are calling for the US Coast Guard to ‘please search again’.
Nicola Evans, of Belvedere, Kent who started up the petition, said: ‘I sailed with Andy on Cheeki Rafiki last summer during the Fastnet 2013 campaign.
‘Andy is an amazing guy and showed such genuine care for me and all his crew mates, that we all consider him a close friend and desperately want him to be found.’
Family members have joined the call.
Claire Goslin, of Plymouth, said: ‘One of the sailors is my dad and we cannot give up! He is my world and we need to start this search again!!’
Gemma Townsend, of London, said: ‘My uncle is on board. We mustn’t give up. Two days searching is not enough. When people have survived many months on life rafts.’
Supporter David Williams added: ‘I crewed Cheeki across Biscay on the first leg of her outward journey in October.
‘She’s a well prepared boat with an experienced crew who will have the resources to survive for a lot more than 2 days (Tony Bullimore survived a week before being rescued and he was on his own).
‘It’s far too early to call the search off and give up on four men who could still be alive and hoping for rescue.’
U.S. Coast Guard Captain Anthony Popiel said after learning of the vessel’s distress at 12.30am, Friday, watchstanders at the 1st Coast Guard District immediately began coordinating efforts by air and sea to locate the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki.
The locator beacons activated by the crew indicated they were in a position 1,000 miles east of Massachusetts as of Friday morning. Seas were 15 feet with winds surpassing 50 knots. The air temperature was 59 degrees and the water was 60 degrees.
He said: ‘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. Crews searched for 53 hours.’
Capt Popiel added: ‘Air crews from North Carolina, Georgia and Canada searched an area of more than 4,000 square miles and worked with commercial liners who volunteered to assist from the sea.
‘At approximately noon, Saturday, the crew from the 1,000-foot motor vessel Maersk Kure located an overturned hull that matched the description of the Cheeki Rafiki, but could not find any sign of the sailor.
‘After more than two days of searching and no indication of surviving crew members, the U.S. Coast Guard made the difficult decision to suspend search efforts.
‘We will continue to provide any information we can about the search efforts and wish to extend again our deepest condolences to the family and friends of these four sailors.’