150,000 sign petition urging US to resume search for British yachtsmen

LONDON (AFP) - More than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling on the US Coast Guard to resume the search for four British yachtsmen missing in the Atlantic Ocean.

British government minister Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has also urged the US Coast Guard (USCG) to keep looking for the crew of Cheeki Rafiki, who have not been heard from since Friday.

The 12-metre yacht first began taking on water on Thursday, some 1,000 kilometres east of Cape Cod. The yachtsmen were returning from Antigua Sailing Week in the Caribbean.

Contact was lost on Friday and the USCG called off their efforts on Sunday.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office said they had been in "constant contact" with the USCG.

"They have assured us that they did everything they could, and would have done exactly the same for US citizens," he said.

They conducted more than 20 sorties with three different aircraft, conducted for twice as long as their standard procedures required, in challenging weather conditions, the spokesman said.

"Our own coastguard have been fully briefed throughout and believe the USCG have done everything they could."

Relatives of the missing four men - experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56 - remain convinced that their loved ones are alive.

Mr Goslin's daughter Claire is among those who have signed the online petition at change.org.

Mr Hunt, who represents Mr Bridge's home area in parliament, said it was "too soon to give up" the search, a call backed by some of Britain's most experienced sailors.

Ms Ellen MacArthur, who twice broke the world record for fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe, said there was "every chance" that the sailors could be alive either inside the hull of the yacht, or in the life raft which is designed to keep people alive at sea.

"There are examples of both types of survival, and in both cases for extended periods of time," she said.

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