THE family of a missing Hampshire sailor have today spoken of being “deeply saddened” as they come to terms with the news that his boat was found with its life raft inside.

The US Coastguard confirmed yesterday that the Cheeki Rafiki had been found upside down with its keel broken off.

The search, which had also involved the RAF, has now been called off. 

In a statement released via the Foreign Office, the family of Romsey yachtsman, James Male, 23, said: “As you can imagine we are deeply saddened by Friday's news and 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.

“We would like to thank everyone who helped us in our search. Special thanks must go to the US and Canadian Coast Guards, the US Navy, the RAF, the merchant vessels and smaller yachts that sailed through the area.

"We must also thank the UK Government, the support the Foreign Office has provided us with in the past week has been second to none.

"This has been very comforting and we could not have done without it.

“The media have been very supportive and respectful over the past week, however we must now ask that we are given the space we need to remember James with our own family and friends, in private.”