A YOUNG Hampshire sailor’s family say they are struggling to coming to terms with the news he is still missing after his vessel was found with its liferaft still on board.
They said they were “deeply saddened” by the discovery of the upturned Cheeki Rafiki, in which James Male, 22, from Romsey, had been sailing to Southampton from the Antigua Sailing Week regatta.
Meanwhile, special prayers have been said at Romsey Abbey and an area has been created for those wanting to remember James.
The Rev Tim Sledge has been comforting James’s family.
They have been left in shock after the US Coastguard found the Cheeki Rafiki’s liferaft was still on board and there was no sign of the crew, ending any chance the sailors had clambered on to the raft before their vessel capsized.
James’s family, hoping he had survived, had made a makeshift control centre, nicknamed “the hub”, in their home.
They have also visited the Foreign Office as part of their campaign to keep the search going.
A statement, released on behalf of James’s family, said: “As you can imagine, we are deeply saddened by Friday’s news and are struggling to come to terms with the fact that James is missing. James was a passionate sailor, surfer, kayaker and all-round water sport enthusiast, as well as being a keen snowboarder and outdoor instructor.
“He loved being in the outdoors and on the water teaching new skills to people. We must therefore try to take some comfort in the knowledge that he was doing something he really loved.
“The past week has been a very difficult one for all the families, and we have drawn strength from each other and hopefully we can continue to do so. James would have been amazed by the overwhelming support shown to us all by the public, which has made this week slightly easier to bear.”
The family thanked everyone who had helped in the search for the missing sailors.
Friends, family or anyone who would like to say a prayer for James and the other yachtsmen can visit Romsey Abbey’s chapel of St Nicholas – the patron saint of sailors.
Rev Sledge said: “It has been such a shock and tragedy for so many people. What we want to do is provide a space where people can light a candle, say a prayer, reflect and leave their thoughts on post-it notes.”
US Coastguard photographs reveal serious damage to the Cheeki Rafiki’s fibreglass hull. The keel has been ripped off. Following this discovery the search was abandoned, eight days after the yacht went missing.
James and the three other sailors had been sailing for Southampton when they got into difficulties last Thursday and started taking on water in the mid-Atlantic.
Contact with James, Andrew Bridge, 21, from Surrey, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset, was lost in the early hours of the next day while they were diverting to the Azores. The initial search for the crew was suspended two days later.
But after pressure from the British Government, the US Coastguard resumed the search last Tuesday and since then more than 17,000 sq mi of the Atlantic was scoured.