RELATIVES of four Britons who went missing when their yacht capsized in the mid-Atlantic have made an emotional plea to the US Coastguard to resume the search-and-rescue mission to find their loved ones.

The call by the yachtsmen's families for the search to be resumed for the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki has been backed by an MP as well as prominent figures in the sailing world.

The 40ft Beneteau performance racer/cruiser yacht, ran into difficulties some 620 miles east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on Thursday while returning to the UK from a regatta in Antigua.

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Contact with the ship's captain Andrew Bridge, 22, and crew members James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, was lost in the early hours of Friday while they diverted to the Azores. US and Canadian aircraft, assisted by three merchant vessels, looked for them throughout Friday and Saturday but called off the search yesterday at 5am local time as the weather deteriorated.

Some 4,000 square miles were scanned while signals were still being received from the vessel's two GPS beacons.

On Saturday, a cargo vessel which was helping the search spotted and photographed an overturned hull which matched the description of the Cheeki Rafiki, but there were no reported signs of people on board or a life raft.

Kay Coombes, the sister of Mr Warren, a project manager for an electrical company, said that she and their mother, Margaret Warren, were convinced he was still alive.

The 46-year-old said: "It's an utter nightmare, we are grateful for the US and Canadian coastguards for what they have done so far, but it's stopped too soon after two days, it's not long enough, we believe they are still alive.

"They are four strong-minded, physically strong sailors, they knew they were in difficulties and had every opportunity to get into the life raft which would have had provisions for several days. But if no-one is looking for them, they won't be found."