US Navy finds the boat and Coast Guard confirms worst fears shortly after the search is called off
Cheeki Rafiki’s life raft has been found in its place aboard the boat and unused, according to the US Coast Guard. A US Navy vessel located the upturned hull of the boat believed to be Cheeki Rafiki on Friday. A small boat was launched and a swimmer confirmed the name.
Although unable to dive below the boat, the swimmer did manage to get underwater images that confirmed that the life raft had not been deployed and was still in its dedicated storage position.
This was the news that no one wanted to hear, confirmation that the four men had not made it into the raft.
In addition, there was no sign of the men and there are no further indications as to their whereabouts.
“The US Coast Guard has confirmed the life raft aboard the capsized sailing vessel Cheeki Rafiki was secured in its storage space in the aft portion of the boat, Friday, indicating it was not used for emergency purposes,” said a spokesman.
The mystery as to why the boat capsized still remains, but new pictures of the upturned boat show the damage to the hull in the area of the missing keel, in particular a large area of damage on the starboard side of the hull as if the outer skin had been peeled off.
The search for the missing men was called off at 0300UTC this morning.
“It is with sincere compassion for the families of these four men that our thoughts and prayers are with them all during this difficult time,” said Capt. Anthony Popiel, 1st U.S. Coast Guard District Chief of Response. “The US Coast Guard is always hopeful, and makes the utmost efforts to find and rescue those in peril. We have the greatest appreciation for the US Navy and US Air Force for working with us alongside the militaries of Canada and the United Kingdom during this massive search effort. It is only after our deepest consideration that we suspend our active search efforts.”
Jeremy Wyatt of the World Cruising Club, who has been helping to coordinate the search with the private vessels that are heading back to the UK on ARC Europe said, “We are inviting sailors everywhere to have a silent minute of reflection and remeber the four crew at sunset today.”