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US Navy finds upturned hull of Cheeki Rafiki - no signs of life aboard

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com on 24 May 2014
The Cheeki Rafiki, pictured during Antigua Sailing Week, before it ran into difficulties returning to the UK. MailOnline
The hull of the missing UK yacht Cheeki Rafiki has been found in the North Atlantic ocean by a US Navy warship.

In a statement issued by the US Coastguard who is co-ordinating the resumed search they said that a U.S. Navy warship helicopter crew located the overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki 1,000 miles offshore Massachusetts and within the U.S. Coast Guard's search area, Friday.

There was no evidence to suggest the vessel was different from the capsized boat already located during searches on Saturday, May 17, also within a U.S. Coast Guard search area.

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 swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached an arm's length below the waterline with no results. Surface swimmers are not trained divers and do not perform sub-surface operations.

Navy crews observed that the sailing vessel's keel was broken off, causing a breech in the hull.

The hull sighting has not impacted search planning as teams continue to look for a bright-colored life raft as their search object.

The U.S. Coast Guard made an announcement, Thursday, 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.

As a matter of policy, the U.S. Coast Guard does not perform salvage operations.

Last Thursday week, 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 BBC reports that a UK Foreign Office spokesman said it was keeping in close contact with the US Coast Guard and had informed family members of the missing men of the discovery.

A friend of the family of James Male, one of the crew, told the BBC they were remaining optimistic that he may still be alive.

Earlier, debris picked up by a searching multihull, was determined not to have come from the Cheeki Rafiki.

Second Atlantic rescue
In a second incident, the US Coastguard report they have arranged the transfer of three crew from a 41ft yacht Elusive, was beset by storms in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 350 miles east of Virginia Beach.

Rescued are Larry Monesson, 60, Sean Monesoon, 40, and James Moore, 40.

The father of James Moore contacted Coast Guard 5th District Command Center watchstanders at approximately 1 a.m. Thursday reporting he received a message via satellite phone from his son. The message stated the crew of the Elusive were experiencing high winds, 25-foot ocean swells and engine failure, but were attempting to repair the engine and not requesting assistance at the time.

District command center watchstanders established a communication watch with the crew of the Elusive. The watchstanders also conducted a search for the closest automated mutual-assistance vessel rescue (AMVER) ships to the distress and conducted an enhanced group call (EGC), a broadcast service using the Inmarsat communication system, asking for possible assistance from ships in the area.

The crew aboard the Bow Clipper, a 600-foot Norwegian flagged tanker, responded to the Coast Guard's EGC broadcast and contacted the crew of the Elusive via VH-F radio.

At approximately 5 p.m., a crewman aboard the Elusive contacted the district command center watchstanders and informed them the situation worsened, and the crew intended to abandon ship and transfer to the Bow Clipper.

The two crews coordinated the rescue and at approximately 7:15 all three people were reported safe aboard the Bow Clipper.

'The early communications by the crew of the Elusive and the proactive response by the crew of the Bow Clipper allowed the watchstanders to arrange for the Bow Clipper to be in position to effect an immediate rescue when the situation aboard the sailing vessel Elusive deteriorated,' said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Eason, the 5th District's search and rescue mission coordinator. 'Additionally, the crew of the Elusive took the proper precautions before departing port by ensuring they had a working satellite phone and personal locator beacons.'

The Bow Clipper's next port of call will be Wilmington, North Carolina.

There are no reports of injuries.

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