23 May 2014
Last updated at 20:53
The hull of the missing UK yacht Cheeki Rafiki has been found in the North Atlantic ocean by a US Navy warship, the US Coast Guard has told the BBC.
A surface swimmer identified the name on the back of the boat, but was unable to go inside. The swimmer knocked on the hull but there was no response.
They expect to find the rest of the vessel soon, the spokesman added.
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 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.
The US Coast Guard told the BBC the cabin of the found vessel appeared to be flooded, with the windows shattered.
A friend of the family of James Male, one of the crew, told the BBC they are aware of the latest development and remain optimistic that he may still be alive.
The US search for the yacht is still set to end by Friday night.
Two US planes and two boats have been sent out again, along with an RAF Hercules plane, which are set to keep looking for the Cheeki Rafiki on Saturday.
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.
“Although the search at some point is going to be suspended… [it] is still happening. We have got to stay positive to that. We know our boys are out there,” said Mr Male’s father, Graham.
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.
- One man is known to have survived 133 days on a raft after ship was torpedoed by a U-boat in 1942, and experts have said the warmer water, the better chance of survival
- The water where the Cheeki Rafiki is understood to have encountered trouble is believed to be about 15C
On Thursday night, the US Coast Guard official overseeing the search, Capt Anthony Popiel, said he had spoken to the yachtsmen’s families to tell them the search could be suspended.
“If by midnight tomorrow [03:00 BST Saturday] there are no further developments to indicate search efforts would locate the crew alive we will suspend the search,” he said.
He added that he had “sincere compassion” for the families of the four men, and that his “thoughts and prayers” were with them.
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.