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Fishing boat set to rescue teenager

A French fishing vessel has been steaming across the southern Indian Ocean to reach an American teenager stranded after the mast on her yacht broke, ending her round-the-world record bid.

Abby Sunderland, from California, has been stranded in heavy seas since Thursday, when she set off a distress signal after the mast collapsed, knocking out her satellite communications.

Rescuers in a chartered jet flew from Perth on Australia's west coast and spotted the 16-year-old's boat, Wild Eyes, on Thursday. She was able to radio to the plane to say she was in good health and had plenty of food supplies.

The Cross maritime rescue centre on the island of Reunion, off Madagascar, said it had sent three boats in her direction.

Centre director Philippe Museux told French RFO television station in Reunion that it had asked a fishing boat to head to the area.

The rescue was planned to take place on Saturday afternoon at Abby's location, allowing for plenty of daylight, family spokesman Jeff Casher said.

He said an Australian search and rescue spotter plane was expected to reach the teenager shortly after the French vessel. Crews on the plane had been talking to the French fishermen to try to determine the best way of getting Abby from one boat to the other.

The French fishing boat is considerably larger than the teenager's yacht and, in the rough seas without special equipment, transfer could be difficult.

One option being considered is for Abby to climb into her life raft and then be hoisted into the French boat. It is likely she would scupper her boat as she left it, probably by flooding it, because the cost of towing it back to the US would be too high, Mr Casher said.

Abby set out from Los Angeles County's Marina del Rey on January 23, trying to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo.

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