Andrew Bridge Steve Warren
Andrew Bridge (R) and Steve Warren are two of those who were onboard the Cheeki RafikiRoyal Yachting Association

Britain's Ministry of Defence is sending an aircraft to help with the resumed search for the four missing British yachtsmen in the Atlantic Ocean.

An RAF Hercules aircraft set off from the UK Wednesday morning (21 May) and is expected to join the search team by the afternoon.

The four men on board the 40ft Cheeki Rafiki - Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 23, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56 – experienced difficulties after sailing back from a regatta in Antigua.

The US Coastguard called off their search for the men after 53 hours and covering an area of 4,000 sq miles. The American search team said they "did everything they could" in the search and that they would not expect the men to have survived more than 20 hours.

The search was resumed after angry reactions from the families and friends of the missing men. A campaign to restart the search was backed by the health secretary Jeremy Hunt as well as more than 200,000 people who signed an online petition.

The US Coastguard said the decision to resume the search was down to a request from the British government. David Cameron thanked the US authorities for resuming the search, while the family of the men said they were "delighted" at the news.

The British aircraft will now join the four vessels, two US aircraft and a Canadian military plane, involved in the search of an area around 620 miles (1,000km) east of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Three more ships and a US aircraft are also due to join in the search.

Paul Goslin James Male
Paul Goslin (L) and James Male are also missingRoyal Yachting Association

The US Coastguard said since the hunt resumed, they have searched more than 2,280sq miles of ocean.

An MOD spokesperson added: "We can confirm that the UK will be providing military assistance in the search for the four British sailors.

"A C130 Aircraft was deployed from RAF Brize Norton at 0500 on 21 May and has started to move towards the search area where it will join the international Search and Rescue effort."

Defence secretary Philip Hammond added: "The RAF's contribution to the search operation for the four missing British sailors will provide additional capability and resilience to the resumed search led by U.S. and Canadian forces.

"We all hope that the extensive resources being provided by our allies and the further support from the UK can help locate the missing yachtsmen as soon as possible."

The families of the men still have high hopes the experienced yachtsmen are alive and made it onto the ship's life raft.

Goslin's wife, Cressida, told the BBC: "They had advanced warning that there was a problem with the boat so we think they would have been prepared to evacuate the ship."

She also thanked the public for their "fantastic support" during the search.

Male's father, Graham, told ITV's Good Morning Britain he is "convinced" the search will find the men.

"You've got to live in hope. It's a large search area and I think they're going to find them," he said.