Search for crew suspended after yacht found along with life raft

The US Coast Guard has suspended its search for four missing British crew members, including two from Somerset. They located the Cheeki Rafiki a week after the vessel went missing and later discovered its life raft still secured aboard.

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Yacht disaster highlights safety issues, report finds

The loss of two Somerset sailors and their crew mates in the Atlantic last May was a "tragic accident", the head of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has said.

But, Chief Inspector Steve Clinch, said the disaster also identified important safety issues that should reduce the chances of anything similar happening.

Paul Goslin and Steve Warren, were onboard the Cheeki Rafiki with James Male from Romsey and Andrew Bridge from Farnham, when the yacht went missing in rough seas after leaving Antigua.

The families of the missing sailors during their campaign to resume the search Credit: ITV Meridian

This has been a challenging investigation. Cheeki Rafiki capsized and inverted, almost certainly as a consequence of its keel becoming detached in adverse weather, in a remote part of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Despite two extensive searches, its four crew remain missing and, as the yacht's hull was not recovered, the causes of this tragic accident will inevitably remain a matter of some speculation. Nevertheless a thorough investigation has been conducted that has identified a number of important safety issues which, if addressed, should reduce the likelihood of a similar accident in the future.

The investigation has identified that in GRP (glass re-enforced plastic) yachts that are constructed by bonding an internal matrix (or lining) of stiffeners into the hull, it is possible for the bonding to fail, thereby weakening the structure.

– Steve Clinch
The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki was discovered by a US navy ship Credit: Hand out

Mr Clinch said that during the investigation "it became clear that opinions were divided as to whether or not Cheeki Rafiki's return passage across the Atlantic Ocean was a commercial activity".

He added that he made a recommendation to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to improve the guidance on when small vessels are required to have commercial certification and that this "should help resolve what has, for too long, been a grey area".

I hope that this report will serve as a reminder to all yacht operators, skippers and crews of the particular dangers associated with conducting ocean passages, and the need for comprehensive planning and preparation before undertaking such ventures.

– Steve Clinch


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Prime Minister: 'My thoughts are with the families'

David Cameron thanked those who had taken part in the search Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The Prime Minister has said his thoughts are with families of the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki after the boat's upturned hull was found, with the life raft still in place.

Mr Cameron said: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki after the sad news that its hull has been found with the life raft unused."

He added: "My sincere thanks to the US Coast Guard for leading the international search with great dedication - and to the US Navy, the Canadian authorities and to our own RAF C-130 aircraft who took part in it."

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Chances of finding yacht crew 'non-existent now'

A spokesman for the World Cruising Club, which organises boat races around the world, has said the changes of finding the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki yacht are now "non-existent".

Jeremy Wyatt told the BBC: : "I think we have to be realistic and face facts that they're not in a raft and therefore the chances of finding anyone are non-existent now."

The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki was discovered by a US navy ship. Credit: Handout

"In some ways it's a hard fact, but I think, after a week of searching, it's really the only conclusion you can safely draw," he added.

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US Coast Guard will still cancel search despite hull find

A US Navy warship helicopter crew located the overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki 1,000 miles offshore Massachusetts and within the US Coast Guard's search area, Friday.

The warship diverted to the location and deployed a boat crew and surface swimmer to assess the boat.

The surface swimmer confirmed the name on the ship was Cheeki Rafiki and went in the water to investigate further. The swimmer determined the boat's cabin was flooded and windows were shattered, contributing to the complete flooding inside.

The U.S. Coast Guard made an announcement that search operations would be suspended at midnight Friday unless new information or sightings suggested the crew would still be alive. None of the current developments indicate that to be the case.

– US Coastguard statement


Families won't give up hope in search for missing sailors

The families of two Somerset sailors missing in the Atlantic say they haven't given up hope their loved ones will be found, despite being told the US Coastguard search will end tomorrow morning.

Steve Warren and Paul Goslin were on board the Cheeki Rafiki with two other men when contact was lost a week ago. Their families have been meeting with the Foreign Office today. Clare Forestier has the story.

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