RIO DE JANEIRO – The last of the 64 people from the shipwrecked Canadian sailboat Concordia, which sank Thursday in a storm off the coast of Brazil, arrived Saturday at a naval base outside Rio de Janeiro.
At around 4:00 p.m. (1800 GMT) two vessels arrived at the Mocangue Naval Base with the last people to be rescued from the Concordia, just hours after the sailboat captain and the first group of at least 11 young people arrived that morning.
The Concordia was a training vessel belonging to West Island College International, an academy for young people which gives secondary and university-level classes on the high seas, and which has its seat in Lunenburg, Canada.
According to the navy, the sailboat sounded an emergency alarm Thursday night, and hours later the crew of a Brazilian air force plane spotted a life raft with several people aboard.
The Concordia’s captain, the American William Curry, told reporters that he thought the cause of the shipwreck was a sudden, powerful gust of vertical wind. He also said that the sailboat sank in just 20 seconds.
Curry said that one of the three lifeboats had to be detached from the sailboat with a knife, and that a crew member, “with great courage,” jumped in the water to recover an emergency signal that had fallen in the sea.
“His intervention was fundamental since it put the signal in the boat, which helped send the navy our call for help,” Curry said, alluding to officer Goff Byers.
Young Lauren Unsworth, 16, said that the students were at class when the boat was shipwrecked, which, she said, occurred when “the boat heeled over and the windows broke.”
“We had to climb a wall, put on life jackets and get in the life rafts,” she said.
The Japanese-flagged merchant ship Hokuetsu Delight with a Philippine crew, which was sailing near the site of the shipwreck, was alerted by the navy and picked up 48 of the people who had been on the Canadian boat. Later another 16 were rescued.
Keaton Farwell, 17, had words of thanks for the sailors who rescued her: “They were very polite, they loaned us clothes and washed ours.”
The teen said she felt lost at sea in the midst of the storm. “We thought we weren’t going to survive. We cried with happiness when we saw the airplanes flying over us. It’s hard to describe the emotion.”
The sailboat had called in at the Brazilian port of Recife last Feb. 4 en route from Dakar, and four days later set sail for Montevideo, where they should have arrived the following Tuesday.