A search has been called off for four Britons feared dead after their yacht is thought to have capsized in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
The crew of the Cheeki Rafiki ran into difficulties nearly 630 miles east of Cape Cod on Thursday while returning from the prestigious Antigua Sailing Week regatta.
Contact with Andrew Bridge, 21, James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, was lost in the early hours of Friday while they were diverting the vessel to the Azores.
They were sailing the 40ft Beneteau performance cruiser yacht from Antigua for Southhampton-based yacht training and charter company Stormforce Coaching.
US and Canadian aircraft and merchant vessels looked for the crew throughout Friday and Saturday but the search was called off yesterday.
A US Coastguard spokesman said that two US and one Canadian aircraft had been assisted by three commercial vessels until the search was called off at 5am local time.
The spokesman said: “We searched with multiple assets over 4,000 square miles for pings from the vessel’s personal locator beacons. After receiving no more transmissions we believe that we would have found them by now if we were going to find them.
“These beacons are small devices and the ones being used have a very short battery life.”
One of the commercial vessels taking part in the search, the 1,000ft container ship Maersk Kure, discovered debris thought to be the overturned hull of the Cheeki Rafiki.
However, it did not stop to inspect the debris because nobody was seen on board.
Weather conditions in the area where the men went missing were described as treacherous, with winds in excess of 50 knots and waves were reported to be between 15 to 20 feet.
Mr Bridge, who is from Farnham in Surrey, was being paid by Stormforce for his role on the yacht, a spokeswoman from the firm said.
But Mr Goslin, from West Camel, Somerset, Mr Warren, from Bridgwater, also in Somerset, and Mr Male, from Southampton, were also described as “very experienced offshore yachtsmen”.
Mr Bridge’s aunt, Georgina Bridge, said her nephew’s passion for sailing started when he was a child.
She said: “Sailing is his passion and we just want him home.”
Stormforce director Doug Innes said that the yacht had first started taking on water on Thursday but the skipper was in contact and the crew had been working to keep the situation stable.
He said it could have been possible that the crew took to a life raft after contact was lost on Friday.
He said: “Search and Rescue authorities were mobilised and a mixture of Canadian and US aircraft along with merchant vessels searched throughout Friday and Saturday.
“Although the search efforts co-ordinated 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 US Coastguard and are providing consular assistance to the families.”