British families plead for U.S. to resume search for missing yachtsmen

This is a undated handout file photo issued by the Royal Yachting Association, via the PA, on Monday May 19, 2014 show the missing yacht Cheeki Rafiki . AP Photo/Royal Yachting Association/PA

LONDON -- The families of four missing British yachtsmen pleaded Monday for the U.S. Coast Guard to resume searching for the men, whose boat disappeared last week in the mid-Atlantic.

The high-performance Cheeki Rafiki yacht was returning from a regatta in Antigua when it ran into trouble Thursday about 600 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The 40-foot-long Beneteau yacht diverted to the Azores before contact was lost Friday.

U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian aircraft, assisted by three merchant vessels, spent more than two days scouring the ocean for captain Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56. The search was stopped Sunday amid treacherous weather.

Male's father, Graham, said the men could be adrift in a life raft. He said the families have asked the British government to lobby U.S. and Canadian authorities "to reinstate the search."

The cargo vessel Maersk Kure spotted an overturned hull Saturday that matched the description of the missing yacht, but saw no life raft or any signs of survivors.

Rough seas prevented the Maersk Kure from getting a closer look at the hull, said Doug Innes, director of Stormforce Coaching, the British charter and training firm that was managing the boat's journey.

Family members say the crew could be surviving in an air pocket underneath the overturned hull.

Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton, said it was unlikely the missing sailors would be found.

He said the U.S. Coast Guard was among the best in the world, and "they wouldn't call it off if they genuinely thought there was a hope they were in a life raft or the upturned hull."

But Warren's sister Kay Coombes said she's certain that the men are still alive.

"They are four strong-minded, physically strong sailors. They knew they were in difficulties and had every opportunity to get into the life raft which would have had provisions for several days," she said. "But if no one is looking for them, they won't be found."

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