The Portuguese Air Force rescued a couple and a 5-year-old child, of French nationality, from a sailboat "adrift" around 600 kilometers from Ovar, in an operation requiring "a high degree of complexity".

"Three Air Force air assets were engaged in a demanding and complex mission to rescue a couple and their 5-year-old daughter, who were on a sailboat adrift about 600 km from Ovar, for practically the entire day Saturday, September 16," the Air Force said in a note released on Sunday.

According to the statement, the couple and the child were sailing on high seas, with swells of seven meters, when the vessel's mast broke "and the sailboat was left adrift, without communications and without power."

The alert was given by the Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center of Ponta Delgada (MRCC), in the Azores, which informed the Lajes Search and Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) of the activation of the boat´s Emergency beacon.

When activated, this device sends intermittent signals that make it possible to locate people, vessels, or aircraft in emergency situations.

"Immediately, search and rescue was put into action with a high degree of complexity and demands on the crews", reads the statement, both due to the distance at which the vessel was from the coast, and due to the extreme weather conditions.

First, a C-295M plane was activated to confirm the existence of the emergency and find the source of the signal.

Immediately after the need to remove people from the vessel was confirmed and the exact location of the sailboat was detected, an EH-101 Merlin helicopter was sent to the scene to rescue the crew.

According to the Portuguese Air Force, "the couple and the child, who showed some signs of hypothermia, were successfully recovered and later transported to the city of Porto, after receiving initial health care while still on board the helicopter."