Yacht Cheeki Rafiki Feared Lost, Four UK Sailors Missing, Controversy as Coast Guard Calls Off Search

Photo of capsozed boat taken from Maersk Kure

Photo of capsized boat taken from Maersk Kure

UPDATE:  The US Coast Guard has resumed the search for the missing crew from the Cheeki Rafiki.   Over 200,000 signed petitions asking that the search be resumed.  British Prime Minister David Cameron thanked the Coast Guard on Twitter after it made the announcement.

The Cheeki Rafiki, a Beneteau 40.7 sailing yacht, is feared lost and the four British sailors aboard are missing. The yacht was described as well equipped and the sailors; Andrew Bridge, 21, James Male, 23, Paul Goslin, 56 and Steve Warren, 52; were all very experienced.  They were delivering the boat to Europe following Antigua Sailing Week.

Last Thursday an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Beacon) was activated and the captain reported that the yacht was taking on water. The yacht was reported to be roughly 620 miles (998km) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Contact with the yacht was lost in the early hours of Friday while they were diverting to the Azores. On Saturday, the container ship Maersk Kure, spotted a capsized vessel that matched the boat’s description about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but did not stop to inspect it because no one was seen on board. US and Canadian aircraft as well as three merchant vessels looked for the yacht on Friday and Saturday but called off the search Sunday at 5am local time.

There has been considerable controversy over the Coast Guard calling off the search on Sunday. A reported 120,000 have signed a petition asking the US Coast Guard to restart the search. Thousands more pleas have been sent via Twitter and other social media.  Yesterday the Coast Guard released a statement which read, in part:

After learning of the vessel’s distress at 12:30 a.m., Friday, watchstanders at the 1st Coast Guard District immediately began coordinating efforts by air and sea to lo cate 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 with the water was 60 degrees.

When conducting extended searches, the U.S. Coast Guard uses a survivability model that takes into account weather conditions, emergency equipment, and the anticipated condition of the people for whom we are searching. 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.

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 sailors. Air and sea crews continued to search throughout the afternoon and night and into the next morning for any small indication of debris or search objects.

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.

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5 Responses to Yacht Cheeki Rafiki Feared Lost, Four UK Sailors Missing, Controversy as Coast Guard Calls Off Search

  1. Doug Faunt says:

    The CG has agreed to restart the search, after many requests and public pressure, according the the BBC.

  2. Our USCG now covers Europe due to “public pressure”, what is this? It would seem that the Europeans should also be out there looking for their own yacht and crew. We are the first Nation to help when incidents happen then get criticized when we want something. Time for the U.S. State Department to get cracking and have effective agreements in place with various Nations for coverage of incidents such as this. The USCG is multi-mission multi-area and does an amazing job in all of them with far less people than the NYPD. Fair and balanced please from all Nations using the International Waters.

    Good Watch.

  3. Rick Spilman says:

    Good points, Captain. Sadly, I think that the Coast Guard criteria for calling off the search was not entirely unreasonable, particularly given the weather conditions. I did find the social media response to be impressive. Unfortunately that is not likely to change the probable outcome.

  4. alan price says:

    don’t understand why with a gps location they had to search 4000 square miles of ocean, is there not charts and indications of drift from the gps location??