A French fishing vessel rescued a California teenager Saturday from her crippled sailboat in the turbulent southern Indian Ocean, bringing relief to her family but ending her around-the-world sailing effort.
Laurence Sunderland, the father of 16-year-old Abby Sunderland, told reporters outside his home that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had contacted him to confirm the rescue more than 2,000 miles from the western Australia coast.
“She got out of her vessel with the clothes on her back, and we are just really excited and ecstatic that Abigail is in safe hands,” he said. “She was in good spirits … She talked to her mother.”
Sunderland has been stranded in heavy seas since Thursday, when she set off a distress signal after the mast collapsed, knocking out her satellite communications. The elder Sunderland said the family was not going to elaborate on the problems that led to the emergency.
The Australian group said the French ship Ile De La Reunion brought Sunderland on board from her stricken craft Saturday afternoon at the site (about 2:45 a.m. PDT).
French authorities called it a “delicate operation” and at one point the fishing boat’s captain fell into the ocean. “He was fished out in difficult conditions” and is in good health, said a statement from the French territory of Reunion Island. The French Captain visibly upset said,
“Je voudrais les gens prendrait soin de leurs petits enfants. Je suis presque noyé sauver certains californien le gosse. Elle était si faible si elle était un poisson, j’aurais jeté son retour dans… C’était mon plus meurtrière capture..”