THE MAN in charge of the search for four British yachtsmen lost at sea pledged to treat the mission as if they were searching for members of their own family.

Last night Captain Anthony Popiel, below, confirmed that since the search was resumed more than 9,000sq miles of the Atlantic Ocean have been covered by several aircraft and vessels from America, Canada and the UK.

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But he revealed that those searches have failed to result in any sightings of debris, persons or a life raft, despite “excellent” conditions.

Tonight the US Navy warship will arrive in the search area, 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts and tomorrow they will be joined by the US Coastguard’s vessel Vigorous.

He stressed that no decisions had been made regarding the suspension of the search and that their focus is to continue search plans with the hope of finding Romsey’s James Male and his three crewmates.

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Speaking at a press conference last night in Boston Cpt Popiel said: “I have been speaking regularly to the families of the four men and I know it continues to be a difficult time for them.

“My thoughts and prayers are with these families.

“Unfortunately, we have had no sighting of a life raft, persons in the water, the sailboat or debris.

“I have been in this profession for 27 years and I can tell you we treat every search like we were looking for a member of our own family.”

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James, 23, above, and his crew members – experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset – have been missing since their 40ft yacht ran into difficulties about 620 miles east of Cape Cod a week ago while returning to Southampton from a regatta in Antigua.

C o n t a c t with the vessel was lost in the early hours of Friday when they diverted to the Azores.

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The US Coastguard initially called off its search for the missing men on Sunday after spending two days hunting for the capsized vessel.

But it decided to recommence its efforts after pressure from the UK Government, the families of the crew, figures from across the world of sailing and an online petition which yesterday reached 233,142 signatures.

As well as military vessels, several commercial ships and yachts in the area have joined the search, passing on information to James’ family who have been heartened by news of more favourable weather conditions.

Mr Male’s father Graham said: “They are saying that the weather couldn’t be better for the search.

“It’s so nice to hear that information from someone that is there.

“It’s getting our hopes up and there’s a lot of emotion, but we’ve got to keep a lid on it.”