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Coast Guard: Hull of missing British yacht found

A U.S. Navy warship has located the overturned hull of a British yacht that went missing last week in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but officials said last night’s deadline to end the search remains in effect.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson said a helicopter from the warship spotted the hull yesterday afternoon, in an area roughly 1,000 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. A small boat crew confirmed it bore the name of the 40-foot Cheeki Rafiki.

The hull had previously been spotted by a container ship last Saturday. The Coast Guard, at the time, said there was no sign of the sailors or a life raft.

Simpson said yesterday was the first time rescuers examined the hull, which had a breach where the keel had broken off.

A Navy swimmer found the boat’s cabin completely flooded and its windows shattered. Simpson said the swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached below the waterline but got no response.

Simpson said confirmation of the overturned hull does not change its deadline for suspending the search. He said among the items rescuers are searching for is a bright-colored life raft.

The Coast Guard has said it would only extend the search beyond 10 p.m. if they find evidence the crew members are still alive. The search has involved American, British and Canadian vessels and aircraft.

The British Foreign Office said it has informed the missing sailors’ families of the discovery. The Foreign Office said earlier yesterday that the families were “saddened to hear that the U.S. Coast Guard will be suspending the search. But they were prepared for the fact that this would have to happen.”

The Cheeki Rafiki had had been returning to England from a regatta in Antigua when it reported trouble last Thursday. Contact with the crew was lost May 16. The crew included 22-year-old captain Andrew Bridge and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin.

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