ST JOHNS – The search for four British sailors missing in the Atlantic has resumed after it was called off on Sunday. The United States Coast Guard confirmed it had begun searching again after an online petition gathered 200,000 signatures.
Cheeki Rafiki, the 40-foot racing yacht, was sailing from a regatta in Antigua back to Britain when it got into difficulties. Contact with the men was lost on Friday.
Members of the sailors’ families said they were “over the moon” at the news.
They have been meeting ministers at the Foreign Office and are due to go to the United States Embassy to meet the homeland attaché, one of the men’s nieces said.
A spokeswoman for the United States Coast Guard said the “planning process” for the renewed rescue effort began just after 7:30 local time (12:30 BST).
“It’ll be coordinated by air and sea as before but the details are still being worked out,” she told BBC News.
She said she could not at this stage say why the search had resumed. The coast guard had previously said it would only start searching again if new information came to light.
Laura Carpenter – whose father Steve Warren is one of the missing sailors – said she had been told that a plane was in the air and on the way to the area – and would take about three to four hours to get there.
The boat began taking on water 620 miles (1,000 kilometres) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts and diverted to the Azores on Thursday.
The four missing crew members are Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset; Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham, Surrey, the yacht’s skipper; Steve Warren, 52, also from Somerset, and 23-year-old James Male, from Southampton.
Warren’s son-in-law, Dan Carpenter, said: “We are holding out hope. We are aware that it is still a long shot; but while there is some hope, we are concentrating on that.”
Earlier, the British government said it had been assured the United States rescue service “did everything they could”.
The Americans had said the estimated survival time past the time of distress was approximately 20 hours and that their crews had searched for 53 hours.
But the decision to resume searching came after family members insisted they could still be alive in the yacht’s 12-man life raft.
Skipper Bridge’s grandmother Valerie said: “We are delighted. It is at least something and that is all we were asking for, all we wanted was another search.
“It might not come to anything but people want them to do it and they are trying. It seemed too quick, just two days and we were saying ‘if only they could do it for a bit longer’. You never know what could happen.”
The men’s families met Foreign Office Minister Hugh Robertson in London while Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, local MP to one of the sailors, tweeted his appeal to the United States Coast Guard to keep searching.
Goslin’s daughter Claire, who yesterday made an emotional plea to the Americans, said she was “over the moon”.
“I just hope and pray with all my heart that now they find them.”
Tracy Edwards, who skippered the first all-women crew around the world, said the men had been failed by the coastguard.
“I’m absolutely delighted they’ve resumed the search, appalled that it’s taken the British public to force the prime minister to do something,” she told BBC News.
“These men are experienced, fit, healthy and they’ve got modern equipment. How sad they they should’ve done all the right things . . . and then we failed them.
“The US Coast Guard and the UK coastguard have decided they haven’t survived and I think that’s appalling.”
The United States Coast Guard said locator beacons activated by the crew indicated they were in a position 1,000 miles east of Massachusetts on Friday morning.
The yacht was facing 15-foot waves, 50mph winds and sea and air temperatures of 15C (60F), the United States Coast Guard added.
A spokesman said over the weekend it had “saturated the area” in a two-day search involving three American and Canadian aircraft and three merchant vessels and “we would have found them” if it had been possible.