Update at 3 pm, Tuesday 20 May: The US coastguard has confirmed it will resume its search in light of the campaign.
A St Andrews student whose friend is a member of the missing yacht crew in the Atlantic is part of a campaign to restart the search for the sailors.
The British crew of the yacht Cheeki Rafiki went missing early on Friday morning en route back to the UK from the Caribbean. The US coastguard conducted what it has promised was a thorough two-day search of the area, but called it off on Sunday amid bad weather. The crew’s family and friends remain convinced that a renewed search effort would prove successful, however.
A Change.org petition has been started to place pressure on the coastguard to restart the search. It currently has just over 85, 600 signatures. This number is increasingly rapidly as the campaign grows in force.
Will Beattie, who has just completed his final year studying English at St Andrews, is part of a 15-strong team of friends organising the campaign. He has known the 21-year-old skipper, Andy Bridge – nicknamed ‘the bear’ – since they were in year seven together at school in Farnham, Surrey.
Mr Bridge is an extremely experienced yachtsman, based in Southampton but frequently sailing all over the world and taking part in competitions. Mr Beattie said the news of the crew’s disappearance therefore came as a shock, but he remains convinced that his friend is still alive.
He said: “I do genuinely think they are still out there and alive and well. But they can only be so for a limited amount of time.”
He said he was unimpressed by the brevity of the US coastguard’s search. “It just seems odd. These were four guys who were very well trained. Andy was being paid by a coaching company. They had plenty of time to warn the authorities, things seemed calm, they knew they were taking on water and so on. There should have been time to prepare the life raft. It’s most likely that they’re on that life raft.
“There’s such a good chance that these men are alive and well that to fail to resume the search in my mind is kind of sentencing them to die essentially.
“Andy’s my friend and I want him back.”
The campaign team are attempting to use Twitter to reach British politicians including David Cameron, who they hope will pressure the US and Canadian coastguards into further action. Their campaign has been successful so far, gaining the support of well-known figures such as Ben Fogle, Stephen Fry and Richard Branson.
This public support has been maximised through the use of hashtags: #CheekiRafiki, #saveUKsailors, #dontstopsearching and #findUKsailors. A Facebook page has also been created and Mr Beattie has distributed flyers around St Andrews featuring a QR code link to the petition.
National media outlets including the BBC, Sky News and the Telegraph have also been attracted to the campaign.
The other members of the missing crew are Paul Goslin, a 56-year-old from West Camel, Somerset; 52-year-old Steve Warren from Bridgwater, Somerset; and James Male from Southampton, aged 23.
The 40ft performance racer-cruiser went missing off the coast of Cape Cod while returning to Britain after participating in the Antigua Sailing Week. Its problems began on Thursday when the boat began taking on water, and the crew fell out of contact early on Friday morning.
In a press release, the US coastguard said it had searched an area of 4,146 square miles. It said it was “extremely disappointed” not to have found the sailors but argued that “it is extremely challenging to respond to a distress case so far offshore”.
Mr Beattie, however, is hopeful that the social media campaign can convince the coastguard to reignite its efforts before it is too late. While appealing to students and residents of St Andrews to join in with the petition, he expressed thanks to those who have already shown their support.
“It’s just incredible that so many people have already shown their support,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure already being applied, I think more pressure is still going to be applied and it’s just constantly building up that force.
“I was always a little bit sceptical of the power of collectivism. No longer.”
If you would like to support the campaign, you can sign the petition here.