Cheeki Rafiki: Yacht skipper Andrew Bridge 'dearly missed'

James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren, Paul Goslin James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin (l-r) were all experienced yachtsmen

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Cheeki Rafiki skipper Andrew Bridge will be "dearly missed by everyone who knew him", his family have said after the yacht's wreck was found.

The upturned hull of the 40ft vessel was found in the Atlantic on Friday with its life raft still on board but there was no sign of the four crew.

The yacht began taking on water on its way to the UK after an Antigua regatta.

In a statement, Mr Bridge's family said they were "shocked and deeply saddened by the news".

They added: "We would like to thank everyone who's helped in the search for Andrew including the US Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RAF, Merchant vessels, the yachting community and the British and American governments.

Overwhelmed and strengthened

"We have been overwhelmed and strengthened by the public support we have received and would like to thank the media for their support and treating us in a respectful and dignified way."

The crew got into difficulties on 15 May.

They were Mr Bridge, 22, from Farnham, Surrey, Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset; Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset; and 22-year-old James Male, from Romsey, Hampshire.

A US Navy helicopter crew discovered the wreckage about 1,000 miles (1,600km) east of Massachusetts on Friday after the search for the missing men resumed three days earlier following an official request from the UK government.

Map showing the search for the missing yacht

Mr Warren's uncle, Albert Davey, told the BBC: "It's not the ending we would want but we have got to gain some small consolation that Steve was doing what he thoroughly enjoyed doing and I think we have got to cling on to that."

Mr Warren's family added in a statement: "We are very sad that the US has now suspended the search.

"From the beginning we, together with the other families involved, have continued to hold out hope that he would be found alive."

They paid tribute to the US Coast Guard for leading an "exceptional search".

They added: "This is now an incredibly difficult time for all the family. We would therefore request that we are given privacy to come to terms with today's decision."

Boating community

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "It is very sad news. It was an awful moment yesterday to discover the life raft was still there in the boat."

Many private boats taking part in the ARC Rally across the Atlantic had diverted to help in the search. The event's organiser, the World Cruising Club, is now asking the 120 sailors from 16 nations taking part - as well as other sailors - to observe a minute's silence at sunset.

The Royal Yachting Association said the search efforts of sailors and merchant ships "has been a powerful reflection of the spirit that binds the boating community".

The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki The US Coast Guard issued photographs of Cheeki Rafiki's upturned hull showing its keel had broken off
The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki
The overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki
Andrew Bridge Mr Bridge's family said they were shocked and deeply saddened

A US Navy boat crew was deployed after a helicopter sighting of the wreckage and found the cabin of the yacht was flooded and its windows shattered.

A surface swimmer then identified the name on the back of the boat and knocked on the hull but there was no response.

An image showing the life raft still in position had been "shared with and acknowledged by the [men's] families", the US Coast Guard said.

An RAF Hercules C-130 plane operating from the Azores had been due to continue its search on Saturday.

The Foreign Office said: "In light of the US Coast Guard's decision to suspend their search for the crew following photographic confirmation that the life raft is in the hull of the boat, the C-130 will now return to the UK."

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