The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a trio of French septuagenarians from their sinking sailboat 1,200 miles off the coast of New England on Thursday.

The Coast Guard’s Boston station received notice at 6 a.m. that an emergency position-indicating beacon had been activated. The beacon was registered to a 42-foot sailboat, Tao, with three people on board.

A Coast Guard Hercules, a long-range surveillance aircraft in Nova Scotia, responded, as did the State of Maine, Maine Maritime Academy’s 500-foot training vessel, the motor vessel Mol Maxim and a Spanish fishing boat, Robero.

One man on board is 72 years old, and the other two are 79.

The Hercules found the vessel at 11 a.m. and dropped marking flares, a life raft and a radio to the sailboat, which was taking on water and capsizing.

The men abandoned the boat and climbed into the life raft, the Coast Guard said.

For the next three hours the men waited in seas of 10 to 12 feet with 33-knot winds, the Coast Guard said.

The Robero was the first boat to arrive and the men were able to climb on board.

“This rescue demonstrates the strong bond between mariners on the open ocean,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Joaquin Alayola, a search-and-rescue coordinator at the 1st Coast Guard District command center. “The Robero’s crew proved that mariners from any nation can unite to help save lives in a distress situation.”

The Robero was planning to transfer the sailors to the 300-foot Spanish-flagged hospital ship Esperanza for evaluation and to make further travel arrangements.

The Coast Guard was unable to say where the Tao had set out from and what its destination was, in part because of the language barrier between the men and the fishing boat’s crew.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @Mainehenchman