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Knox-Johnston: Very likely missing four UK crew are on a liferaft

'Cheeki Rafiki, a 40ft Beneteau performance racer/cruiser yacht missing in the Atlantic'       Click Here to view large photo

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail non-stop round the world, says there is hope that the four missing British yachtsman are still alive as pressure grows on the US Coastguard to resume the search.

The families of the four experienced sailors have called on the authorities to keep going whilst the men still have a chance, pointing out that they are trained to deal with this eventuality.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston -  onEdition ©   Click Here to view large photo
calls have been backed by MPs and celebrities, including Ben Fogle who sailed across the Atlantic, as a petition to the American authorities and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, to resume the search reached 10,000 signatures.

The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki, a 40ft Beneteau performance racer/cruiser yacht, ran into difficulties some 620 miles east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts on Thursday while returning to the UK from a regatta in Antigua.

Contact with the ship's experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 21, and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, was lost in the early hours of Friday while they diverted to the Azores.

The US Coastguard gave up the search on Sunday, claiming that there was little hope of finding them alive.

On Saturday, a cargo vessel which was helping with the search spotted and photographed an overturned hull which matched the description of the Cheeki Rafiki but reported no signs of people on board or a life raft.

The Greek-registered 1,000ft container ship Maersh Kure has come under fire for failing to stop and investigate the wreckage, so it remains unclear if the lifeboat had been launched.

Sir Robin, the first man to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe and President of the Sail Training Association, told Radio 5 live that the authorities need to work out if it was the hull of the Cheeki Rafiki, and if so it will be possible to establish where a life raft could have drifted in three days.

When asked how likely it was that the crew were on a life raft he said: 'I would say very likely.

'We stow life rafts where they are easily accessible they have also got hydrostatic release valves on them if the boat sinks they automatically release them and let them float to the surface, everyone trains for this, every yachtsmen goes and does a sea survival course.

'This was an experienced crew they almost certainly would have done that, they would have known the score.'

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10:09 PM Mon 19 May 2014GMT


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