hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

SOS: Save Our Sailors

Alphen, Netherlands. 20 May.  As I write somewhere, out in mid-Atlantic four Britons could be tenaciously clinging onto the last lease of life firm in their belief that someone is searching for them. They are probably wrong and have been left to die.  

The thought of Andrew Bridge, Paul Goslin, James Male and Steve Warren struggling for life as they slowly die of dehydration and hyperthermia whilst governments on both sides of the Atlantic 'have consultations' but publicly say and do nothing is not only appalling it is utterly inexcusable. 

The petition for a resumed search now runs to over 100,000 signatures.  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health has joined the call.  Legendary solo round-the-world sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnson says they could still be alive and has joined the call. And yet the silence of the American and British Governments is deafening.   

Yes, a search would be difficult because the four men's yacht Cheeki Rafiki appears to have lost its keel some 1000 nautical miles off Cape Cod.  And yes there is a chance the men have already perished. However, the search falls in the area of responsibility of the United States Coastguard part of the world's most advanced military.  

Moreover, all the evidence suggests these four experienced sailors managed to get into their state of the art life-raft and engaged not one but two rescue beacons.  The US Coastguard says that it uses a sophisticated model that considers age, experience, time and conditions to decide survivability.  Sod the model!   There are several tales from World War Two of torpedoed sailors with far less survival equipment surviving for longer in even more inclement weather.   

What is particularly galling is that both the American and British Governments put an immense effort into trying to find the lost Malaysian airliner MH370 when all hope was lost.  London sent a nuclear submarine and HMS Echo to help with the search even though no British citizens were involved.

Calling off the search after three days in mid-May smacks not of impossibility but bureaucratic and political indifference to the fate of four British citizens. It is tragically ironic how willing British governments are to get involved in MH270 type incidents when foreigners are involved.  It is after all good for strategic communications.  However, London seems indifferent to the fate of four Britons.  And I really wonder if the US would have called off the search so early if the sailors had been American.

I hope I am wrong and things really are being done behind the scenes to try and find these four men. And I have been assured at the highest levels that such efforts are being made to save the men. However, over the past 24 critical hours I see absolutely no evidence of that.

If it transpires that the search was abandoned simply because the fate of the crew of Cheeki Rafiki fell either in the 'not our problem' or the 'too difficult to try' box then someone, somewhere should and hopefully will pay a price.  I doubt it.

To call off the search so early is utterly unacceptable.  The search for the four men must be resumed forthwith!

SOS: Save Our Sailors!

Julian Lindley-French  

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