All hope of finding four British sailors missing at sea has been lost after the US navy discovered the wrecked yacht's upturned hull.

The US coast guard called off the search for the Cheeki Rafiki crew at 3am on Friday UK time after the ship's life raft was found on board the capsized vessel. There was no sign of the crew.

The crew and the yacht had been missing for a week when the wreckage was found. The yacht began taking on water on its way back to the UK after an Antigua regatta. It was found about 1000 miles east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. A US Navy boat was deployed after a helicopter sighting of the wreckage. The navy crew found the cabin of the yacht flooded and its windows shattered.

Loading article content

Coast guard officials decided to call off the search for the men - experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham, Surrey, and crew members James Male, 23, from Southampton, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset - unless there was new information or sightings which suggested they would still be alive.

But a spokesman said: "None of the developments indicate that to be the case."

The family of Andrew Bridge said in a statement: "We are obviously shocked and deeply saddened by the news. Andrew will be dearly missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the families of the rest of the crew on the Cheeki Rafiki.

"We would like to thank everyone who's helped in the search for Andrew, including the US Coast Guard, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RAF, merchant vessels, the yachting community and the British and American governments.

"We have been overwhelmed and strengthened by the public support we have received and would like to thank the media for their support and treating us in a respectful and dignified way.

"We will not be making any further comment at the moment. We would ask just for privacy at this difficult time."

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki after the sad news that its hull has been found with the life raft unused.

"My sincere thanks to the US Coast Guard for leading the international search with great dedication and to the US Navy, the Canadian authorities and to our own RAF C130 aircraft."