The UK Government has thanked the US Coastguard for it efforts after the search for survivors from the yacht Cheeki Rafiki was called off on Saturday (24 May).

Cheeki Rafiki hull

Cheeki Rafiki hull rediscovered: the Beneteau First 40.7 was missing her keel and the search for survivors has been called off.

David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki after the sad news that its hull has been found with the life raft unused.

"My sincere thanks to the US coastguard for leading the international search with great dedication - and to the US Navy, the Canadian authorities and to our own RAF C130 aircraft who took part in it."

Early on Saturday morning the Foreign Office confirmed the search for survivors had been called off. "I am sad to confirm that the search for the Cheeki Rafiki has now been suspended," said Hugh Robertson, the Foreign Office minister for North America.

"My sincere condolences go out to the families of James Male, Andrew Bridge, Steve Warren and Paul Goslin at this very difficult and distressing time."

The Beneteau First 40.7 was returning to Southampton from Antigua when the crew contacted base – Stormforce Coaching in Southampton – on 16 May, to say the boat was taking on water and changing course to head for the Azores. A short time later US Coastguard received notice that two Personal Locator Beacons had gone off in the same area.

In a statement on Friday evening (23 May) the USCG said there was nothing in the wreckage's discovery to suggest the crew would still be alive. "Navy crews observed that the sailing vessel's keel was broken off, causing a breach in the hull.

"The US coast guard has confirmed the life raft aboard the capsized sailing vessel Cheeki Rafiki was secured in its storage space in the aft portion of the boat, Friday, indicating it was not used for emergency purposes.

"A US navy warship smallboat crew and surface swimmer captured underwater imagery clearly identifying the raft in its storage space. The image was shared with and acknowledged by the families.

"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."

The initial search for survivors had been called off last Sunday, then restarted after a public outcry: US Coastguard continues search for missing sailors.