LONDON – The search for four Britons missing in the North Atlantic Ocean was called off Sunday, three days after their yacht began taking on water.
The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki, a 40-foot performance racer-cruiser, first ran into difficulties on Thursday some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
The yachtsmen were returning from Antigua Sailing Week in the Caribbean.
They were diverting to the Azores, the Portuguese island group, on Friday when contact with the yacht was lost.
The men were sailing the boat back to Southampton on the southern English coast for the yacht training and charter company Stormforce Coaching.
“They had not been able to ascertain where the water ingress was from and were diverting to the Azores,” said Stormforce director Doug Innes.
“Unfortunately we lost contact during the early hours of Friday morning and we believe it is possible the crew abandoned to the life raft.
“Search and Rescue authorities were mobilized and a mixture of Canadian and U.S. aircraft along with merchant vessels searched throughout Friday and Saturday.
“Although the search efforts coordinated by Boston were exceptional we are devastated that the search has now been called off so soon.
“Our thoughts are with the four yachtsmen and their families and we hope and pray for them all.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a missing yacht off the east coast of the USA with four British nationals on board.
“We are in continual contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and are providing consular assistance to the families.”