On noon Saturday, May 18, the crew of M/V MAERSK KURE discovered an overturned hull of a sailing yacht about 1,000 miles east of the U.S. northeast coast. That’s where the last beacon from CHEEKI RAFIKI had been noted. Because of 15-foot seas and winds of over 50 knots, the MAERSK KURE crew was not able to get close enough to confirm the hull as that of CHEEKI RAFIKI. However, the container ship remained in the area until Sunday night in hope of finding survivors before having to sail on.
The first sign of distress had come at 12:30 a.m., May 16, with the activation of two EPIRBs and word that CHEEKI RAFIKI was taking on water in foul weather. The initial search by U.S., Canadian, and other nation’s assets for the yacht initiated from that time and continued until 5:00 a.m., May 19, covering over 4,000 square miles by sea and by air, in hopes that the crew had found safety in their life raft. That search was called off because it had more than twice surpassed the 20 hours that survival models indicated for such weather conditions.
CHEEKI RAFIKI, a Beneteau 40.7, was en route to the U.K. from the Caribbean at the time of her distress. Her crew are said to be Paul Goslin, 56; Steve Warren, 52; James Male, 23; and Andrew Bridge, 21, all experienced sailors from the south of England.