The catamaran had “large sections of its hull missing,” Joe Zeller, a senior manager at AMSA, said in a video statement.
“An emergency beacon absolutely saved their lives,” said Zeller, who was on call when the distress signal was received.
A huge Panama-registered vehicle carrier, the 650-foot Dugong Ace, carried out the rescue in the Coral Sea. The unharmed sailors, aged between 28 and 64, are expected to arrive in Brisbane on Thursday.
AMSA did not named the rescued men but the expedition is led by Evgeny Kovalevsky, alongside crew member Stanislav Berezkin, both from Siberia.
The project’s website lists Vincent Thomas Etienne as an extra crew member participating in the Tahiti— Australia stage. The boat is a Russian-registered catamaran named “Russian Ocean Way — Tion.”
A spokesperson for the expedition told NBC News via text message that Yulia Kalyuzhnaya, head of the operation, will fly to Australia to meet the sailors and discuss the future of the voyage.
“Now [the] travelers are safe, this is the most important thing. Unfortunately, the catamaran could not be saved. The fate of the expedition will be clear next week,” the spokesperson said.
The trip from Vanuatu to the trio’s intended destination of Cairns, Australia, is more than 1,200 miles and AMSA said it would normally take two to three weeks depending on weather conditions.
An Instagram account for the voyage said that the boat was first attacked on Monday by cookie cutter sharks, a small species that grows to around 16 inches and is linked to only a handful of attacks on humans. This caused the boat to partially submerge but it limped on for 100 more miles.