All hope of finding Cheeki Rafiki‘s crew alive was lost Friday, when US Navy divers confirmed that the life raft of the overturned Beneteau 40.7 was still aboard. "Windows" were reportedly smashed out, and no signs of life were observed inside. At the time, the vessel was approximately 1,000 miles off Cape Cod.
As reported earlier, the vessel was heading from Antigua to England after competing in Antigua Sailing Week when it got into trouble during stormy conditions. Four UK sailors were aboard: Captain Andrew Bridge 22, James Male 24, Steve Warren 52, and Paul Goslin 56. It is tragically ironic that Warren and Goslin had originally planned to crew aboard a different vessel.
After a personal EPIRB was activated May 15, a widespread, multi-agency search was begun, but was called off two days later after the hull was spotted by a cargo vessel, and US Coast Guard officials concluded that the sailors could not possibly survive any longer in the 60-degree water. However, a widespread international outcry led to the search being reopened. In all, 17,500 square miles of ocean were searched by US and UK assets prior to the discovery Friday that the liferaft was still aboard.
The keel bolt holes shown in the accompanying photos may spur speculation as to the cause of the keel breaking away. The two forward holes are clean and regularly shaped, but the aft hole shows signs of rust or corrosion, as if it had been somehow compromised. It appears that the second hole from the stern may have been the last to let go. Needless to say, though, we will probably never know what exactly transpired during this tragic capsize.