Cheeki Rafiki update - Debris in Atlantic Ocean
by Ted Thornhill, Daniel Martin, and Arthur Martin on 22 May 2014
Has the Cheeki Rafiki been found? Debris has reportedly been found in the Atlantic Ocean in the area where UK yacht the Cheeki Rafiki went missing. The crew of an Austrian catamaran named the Malisi spotted a plank of wood - possibly a floorboard or part of a table - and a plastic board in the northern sector of the 130-square-mile search area.
The captain of the charter yacht said that details of what was spotted have been passed on to the U.S Coast Guard.
The Malisi skipper, Frenchman Patrick Michel, told the BBC: 'We are currently just in the north part of the search area, our third night out here, and we did see during this night a few little [pieces of] debris which I have reported to the US Coast Guard with the times and positions, so there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.'
A spokeswoman for the US Coast Guard said: 'I can confirm that we have received reports (of debris) from the sailing vessel Malisi. They have found some debris in the search area. We can't tell at this time if they are from the Cheeki Rafiki as there were no identifying marks on them.
'The debris was a plank of wood and a small piece of floating foam, but there was nothing identifying the Cheeki Rafiki. Obviously it is a possibility, and we are definitely treating it very seriously and incorporating that into our search, but I can't say for certain that it was from the Cheeki Rafiki.'
She said the report would be used in planning the search effort, but could not say whether vessels or aircraft would be diverted to the area.
The spokeswoman confirmed the debris was spotted in the search area outlined by the US Coast Guard, but could not say if it was in an area already searched.
She said: 'A lot of these areas overlap and are searched several times, and it is possible that other vessels had been in the area.'
The news comes after a former commandant of the U.S Coast Guard said that the four British sailors are already dead.
Admiral James Loy, head of the U.S Coast Guard between 1998 and 2002, told the Daily Telegraph: 'It would seem to me that hope is pretty much lost at this point.'
Commenting on the decision by the U.S Coast Guard to resume the search, he added that it was probably being done out of respect to the country's closest ally.
On Wednesday an RAF plane joined the multinational search effort.
A C130 Hercules aircraft took off from RAF Brize Norton at 5am on its way to Lajes in the Azores, where it refuelled before flying to the search area over the Atlantic, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
The plane joined a flotilla of small sailing boats and the U.S Coast Guard, which bowed to mounting public and diplomatic pressure from the UK to resume efforts to find the crew of the 40ft Cheeki Rafiki.
Cheeki Rafiki captain Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, radioed on Thursday that their yacht was taking on water.
Their families are clinging to hopes that the men managed to get into the boat’s life-raft and are simply awaiting rescue.
Mr Warren’s sister Kay Coombes, 46, from Wincanton, Somerset, said: ‘We can only hold out hope they will find something.
'They said they are going to keep their eyes peeled for anything that may help us, so we are clinging on to that at the moment.’