Rear Adm. Dan Abel, 1st U.S. Coast Guard District Commander, discusses the multinational search and rescue case for the sailing vessel Cheeki Rafiki’s crew with British Consulate-General Susie Kitchens, Vice Consul Jaqueline Greenlaw and the North America and Caribbean Consular Regional Director John Smith, at the 1st Coast Guard District in Boston, May 20, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) – The crew of a charter boat taking part in a search for four British sailors missing in the Atlantic Ocean has found some floating debris in the area where their yacht went missing six days ago, the captain said on Thursday.
Patrick Michel, skipper of the Masili, said his crew had spotted a wooden plank that could be part of the cabin and some white foam or plastic in the northern part of the search area.
He said the debris appeared new as it was free of barnacles but the owner of the missing yacht, the Cheeki Rafiki, would need to confirm that the debris was from the boat.
“We did see during this night a few little (pieces of) debris which I have reported to the U.S. Coast Guard with the times and positions, so there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” Michel told BBC radio.
The four sailors went missing on Friday as they were returning to Britain from a sailing event in Antigua in the Caribbean and reported that the vessel was taking on water, forcing them to change course for the Azores.
The U.S. Coast Guard mounted a search about 1,000 miles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but called it off after two days due to treacherous conditions and saying there was little chance of finding them.
But the fate of the four men – named as captain Andrew Bridge, 21, Steve Warren, 52, Paul Goslin, 56, and James Male, 23 – dominated television and newspaper headlines in Britain and pressure mounted to resume the search with an online petition set up by the men’s relatives signed by over 200,000 people.
Following a request from the British government, U.S. authorities agreed to restart the hunt on Tuesday.
Aircraft and ships from the United States, Britain, and Canada are scanning the area for signs of the sailors with some private vessels also voluntarily joining the search.
Relatives are hoping that the men, all experienced sailors, could have escaped the 40-foot (12-meter) yacht on a life raft.
Warren’s sister, Kay Coombes, said the discovery of some debris was a positive development.
“I think they’ve got a bit more of a clue now so hopefully the coastguard can plot that and get the ships to that area, so fingers crossed they can start searching there,” Coombes told the BBC. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; editing by Stephen Addison)
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