Contact was lost with the four Cheeki Rafiki crew members last Friday

Debris has been sighted in the Atlantic Ocean within the search area for the missing British yacht Cheeki Rafiki.

The sighting comes after the ARC Europe yacht Malisi

spent 36 hours scouring the area after diverting to assist with the

search, under direction of the US Coast Guard (USCG).

The crew of Malisi, an Outremer 64, reported sighting the debris at 2100UTC yesterday.

Skipper Patrick Michel said the object appeared to be ‘a wooden plank about 1-1.5m long and 20-30cm wide, medium brown in colour’

and that no marine growth was apparent, indicating that it is likely to

have entered the water relatively recently.

Two other items of debris

were also sighted by Malisi with the search area and reported to the USCG.

Following the sighting, Malisi has now left the

search area and resumed course for their original destination of Horta

in the Azores islands, due to crew commitments. They have been praised

internationally and thanked by the families of the missing men for their

efforts in assisting with the search.

British yacht Gertha 4,

also part of the ARC Europe fleet, has now entered the search area and

begun to sail in a search pattern in the hope of further sightings.

Contact was lost with the four Cheeki Rafiki crew members, Andrew

Bridge, 21, from Farnham, Surrey, the yacht’s skipper; Paul Goslin, 56,

from West Camel, Somerset; Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset,

and 23-year-old James Male, from Southampton, on Friday.

The previous day, the experienced yachtsmen had reported that they were taking on water but that the situation was stable and they had amended

their course to head for the Azores.

The search continues

Yesterday, the USCG-led search efforts continued approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of

Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Air crews and ships have searched a total of 9,978 square miles.

Weather on scene is six-foot seas with winds at less than 10 knots.

The message has spread through the yachting community to pass the

search area co-ordinates to any sailing vessels that are making the trip

between the Caribbean/Bermuda to the Azores and are able to sail

through the search area.

This includes a number of ARC Europe rally

yachts who are in a more northerly position and as such able to sail

close to the estimated drift positions provided by the US Coast Guard.

Currently three yachts have indicated they have been able to divert

towards north of the rhumb line and will enter the search zone in the

next 24-48 hours to assist with the search efforts.

World Cruising Club

have been made aware of at least 2 other private sailing yachts who will

also proceed to assist with the search.

Pictures: The yacht Malisi arriving in Saint Lucia after taking part in ARC+ last year. Credit: Kieran Higgs Photography/World Cruising Club

Cheeki Rafiki and the missing crew members