THE HULL of the missing Southampton yacht Cheeki Rafiki has been found by the US Navy.

The US Coast Guard has confirmed a surface swimmer spotted the name on the back of the boat but was unable to get inside to see if the life raft was there or not.

They expect to find the rest of the vessel soon but despite the discovery they confirmed that they still intended to end their search in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

There is still no sign of missing yachtsman James Male, from Romsey, and his three crew mates.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the families of the four men have been kept informed of the developments.

The US Coast Guard  said a US navy warship helicopter crew discovered the overturned hull 1,000 miles off Massachusetts.

A close inspection of the debris confirmed the identity of the yacht, which had been flooded.

A coast guard spokesman said: ''The swimmer determined the boat's cabin was flooded and windows were shattered, contributing to the complete flooding inside.

''The swimmer also knocked on the hull and reached an arm's length below the waterline with no results. Surface swimmers are not trained divers and do not perform sub-surface operations.''

Officials said the coastguard still intended to call off the search as the latest development failed to suggest the crew would still be alive.

It said: ''Navy crews observed that the sailing vessel's keel was broken off, causing a breach in the hull.

''The hull sighting has not impacted search planning as teams continue to look for a bright-coloured life raft as their search object.

''The US Coast Guard made an announcement, Thursday, that search operations would be suspended at midnight Friday unless new information or sightings suggested the crew would still be alive. None of the current developments indicate that to be the case.''

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was keeping in close contact with their American counterparts.

The spokesman said: ''The US Navy has informed us it has located the hull of the Cheeki Rafiki.

''We have informed the families and remain in close contact with them and with the US Coast Guard who continue to lead the search operation.''

The Foreign Office was unable to confirm any details about the possible fate of the crew members.

Experienced captain Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey, and crew members 23-year-old James, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Somerset, and Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Somerset, were on board the yacht when it is thought to have got into trouble around 620 miles east of Cape Cod last Thursday.

An initial search by the US Coast Guard was suspended on Sunday but after pressure from the British Government, the search was resumed on Tuesday.