As the search resumes, more information has become available on where the missing yachtsmen may be

While the plight of the four missing yachtsmen from Cheeki Rafiki remains critical, the news that the US Coast Guard would be resuming its search has been met with relief by both the families of the missing men as well as the yachting community at large.

Further information compiled by the World Cruising Club who have been in contact with the USCG has painted a clearer picture of what is known and where the missing yachtsmen may have drifted to in the event that they were able to get aboard their life raft.

“We are trying to pass the word out to as many boats and organisations as we can, so that if boats are at sea and able to sail through the search area, they are encouraged to do so,” said WCC director Jeremy Wyatt.

“We currently have 30 boats in our ARC Europe event that are heading from Bermuda to the Azores, some of whom could be in a position to help with the search as their route passes fairly close to the area where Cheeki Rafiki is believed to be.

“Unfortunately, because of a depression moving across the Atlantic, many had chosen to stay further south to avoid the high winds. Nevertheless, one of our boats, Malisi, a 64ft Outremeer catamaran was further north and diverted towards the area when the weather improved to help with the search and has been reporting back to us.”

As this was posted (1900 BST) the crew of Malisi reported that they had been in contact with two commercial vessels in the area that had received the details of the search areas and were actively engaged in the search.

The USCG has disclosed two search areas, one of which (the south area) is approximately 90 nautical miles to the west of the coast guard’s original search area, a position based no doubt on their sophisticated weather, current and drift models. The second (to the north), takes in the known positions of the PLB reports, the last known position of the boat and the hull sighting by the container ship.

The two search areas are:
North Position: 38-37N 048-48W
South position: 37-36N 050-14W

Each area is believed to be 100nm radius although this hasn’t been confirmed.

The diagram provided by the WCC also shows the last known position of position of Cheeki Rafiki, the two positions of the Emergency personal locator beacons (PLB) and the upturned hull, (believed to be the yacht), as discovered by the Maersk shipping container ‘Kure’ on the weekend.

The illustration suggests that the PLB and the yacht have been drifting towards the southwest which helps to explain why the new search area has been moved further to the west.

The distance between the two PLB signals is around 15 nautical miles while the distance between the second PLB signal and the upturned boat is 25 miles.


In the meantime, the issue as to what happened to the boat and whether the crew would have been able to evacuate it has developed with the circulation of the picture taken of the upturned hull from the Maersk ‘Kure’.

Assuming that the boat is indeed the ‘Cheeki Rafiki’ (no firm confirmation has been made), the boat appears to have lost its keel and is floating very low in the water.

Given that the crew had reported flooding issues around a day before contact was lost it seems possible that the ingress of water and a loose keel could be connected. Assuming this to be the case, the boat would have lost stability as it filled with water, and would have rolled more readily in the big seas. This in turn could have exacerbated the movement, increased the loads on the keel bolts and eventually waggled the keel off the boat.

This is of course speculation, but the point is that the loss of the keel may not have been a sudden failure that left the crew little time to respond, (as in the case of Rambler 100 in the 2011 Fastnet), but a developing situation in which the crew could prepare for the worst which in turn could mean that they were able to prepare to evacuate the boat.