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Abby Sunderland Feared Lost at Sea

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Man this is sad... I knew one of these young kid expeditions would go horribly wrong

Abby Sunderland Feared Lost at Sea

Crew Receives Repeated Distress Signals, Loses Contact With 16-Year-Old Attempting Circumnavigation


June 10, 2010 —

Abby Sunderland, 16, who is attempting to become the youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe, was feared lost at sea today after her crew lost contact with her boat.

Jeff Casher, an engineer on Sunderland's support team, said two emergency beacons on her boat are now signaling she is in trouble.

Abby's mother, MaryAnne Sunderland, told ABC News that Abby manually activated two beacons around 6 a.m. Pacific Time Thursday.

A beacon designed to automatically go off when it contacts water had not been activated, she said.

Abby was in 20-25 foot waves at the time of last contact, with 35-knot winds, said MaryAnne Sunderland, who is due to give birth at the end of the month. She was shaken but focused on trying to get a rescue effort together.

The closest land to Abby's boat was Reunion Island, which is east of Madagascar. The nearest ship was 400 miles away. Rescuers were trying to contact the ship.

Click HERE to watch Abby give a tour of her boat.

Casher told ABC News that he last spoke with the 16-year-old sailor around 6 a.m. PDT after she had been knocked down twice during the night because of strong winds -- meaning that her sail had touched the water.

One of those knock-downs, Casher said, ripped the radar off the boat. She had been speaking with Casher on a satellite telephone earlier because of engine problems and was in the process of fixing those problems when she told Casher she'd call right back.

She has not been heard from since, except for the distress signals.

Abby is approximately 500 miles north of the Antarctic Islands on her bid to become the youngest to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat, solo.

Abby has been recording her trip aboard her boat, the "Wild Eyes," in a blog. In her last entry Wednesday night she said she had recently passed through "some rough weather... with winds steady at 50-45 knots with higher gusts."

"It was a nice day today with some lighter winds which gave me a chance to patch everything up," she wrote. "Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do."

The weather was getting rough again, she noted.

"The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up," she wrote.

Abby's goal at the outset of her trip, to become the youngest sailor to pull off a solo nonstop circumnavigation, ended in April, when she was forced to stop in South Africa because her autopilot malfunctioned.

She still was bidding to become the youngest sailor to perform a solo circumnavigation.

How Young Is Too Young?

In a June 2 report titled "How Young Is Too Young?," "20/20" described Sunderland's circumnavigation attempt.

"I am definitely nervous," Abby told "20/20." "People say you shouldn't be nervous if you are really ready to do this. But I understand [the] ocean, and I understand how dangerous what I am doing actually is, and I understand how careful I need to be out there."

Late last year, Abby began talking publicly about her plan to circumnavigate the globe by herself in a 40-foot boat. It would be, she said, the fulfillment of a dream she sprang on her parents when she was 13.

Laurence and MaryAnne Sunderland, Abby's parents, helped their daughter to prepare for the attempt.

"Could there be a tragedy?" MaryAnne Sunderland said. "Yeah, there could be. But there could be a tragedy on the way home tonight, you know, or driving with her friends in a car at 16. You minimize the risks."

"You arm them with the coping skills," Laurence Sunderland said. "And then you pray."

Not everyone who heard of Abby's plan has been as supportive.

"Child abuse. Child endangerment," said T.J. Simers, a sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times and father of two grown daughters. "I just don't understand the idea of risking life. This kid's going to be out there all by herself. Death is a possibility. Bad weather. Are you kidding me? Who's responsible for this? She's a kid."

Laurence Sunderland answers his critics by saying they don't know his daughter and her abilities.

"When any of my kids come to me with an ambition, I don't laugh at it," said Abby's father, Laurence Sunderland. "I like to listen to my kids. There was a part of me that was even excited, because she's jumped into an arena where I know a little bit about it."

Sunderland schooled Abby in seamanship, testing her, he said, with tougher and tougher solo scenarios through her teens.

"When things went wrong, I'd bring [it to] her attention," Sunderland said. "It was a particularly rough day and her boat was rocking from gunnel to gunnel. ... I knew she was freezing cold, tired and hungry, and we'd been at it for, you know, 20 hours at that stage. I said, 'So Abby, are you ready to sail around the world now?' To which she replied, 'Where is my boat?'"

MaryAnne Sunderland, Abby's mom, joined the story.

"She ended up getting a sponsor," she said. "All she needed was approval, you know, from us."

Laurence Sunderland said the easiest thing for them to have said as parents would have been "No." But then he thought of his daughter and all her talents.

Abby is not the first talented teenager to dream of sailing around the world solo. In 1999, a 17-year-old named Jesse Martin accomplished just that. Yet while at sea, the teen struggled with loneliness and life-threatening storms that left him emotionally devastated.

But Martin witnessed some unforgettable sights along the way -- and made it safely. His adventures were chronicled in the documentary "Lionheart."

"If I never came back it would not have been a tragedy ... a tragedy would be someone who dies at 80 and spent 80 years not being satisfied," Martin said in the documentary. "I was out there doing what I wanted."

Abby Sunderland: Setting Sail

Abby set sail Jan. 23 from Marina del Rey, Calif. Her parents watched as their teenage daughter faded into the horizon.

Later, via a Skype interview from her boat, Abby would recall her emotions that day.

"It was completely overwhelming," she said. "I mean, there was people everywhere, and boats, and all this noise and commotion and stuff. And then all of a sudden it just leaves, and you're the only person out there."

But Abby wasn't completely alone. While at sea, she talked with her mother twice a day, blogged her latest news and kept up her page on Facebook. One of her friends was Jessica Watson, a 16-year-old Aussie also in the process of sailing solo around the world.

"I just love, you know, going out and doing something and having to rely on yourself -- you know, it's up to me," Jessica said in an ESPN documentary.

As Abby got under way, Jessica was about to sail into history as the youngest ever to circle the globe, alone, nonstop. But Abby was five months younger, and so hoped to take that world record for herself.

"She set out to achieve -- a goal as being the youngest person to solo circumnavigate the world nonstop," said Laurence Sunderland.

Abby's route, crafted to avoid any threat of pirates, took her past Chile, where she was unaffected by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake; around Cape Horn and into the South Atlantic. When "20/20" talked with her, she'd been at sea for 101 days.

Abby Sunderland: 'I'm Happy to Do It Alone'

We asked what it was like to go for so long and not see any sign of civilization.

"I think it actually might be more fun if there was somebody else on board," Abby said. "But -- I'm happy to do it alone too."

We also asked her what was the toughest hit her boat had taken, and whether she got scared.

"I got hit by a rogue wave," she said. "I did get knocked down. ... I'd be happy if that didn't happen again."

Abby admitted to having been scared a few times.

She'd also dealt with disappointment. Because when she spoke with "20/20" she knew that her boat needed to stop in Cape Town for repairs -- ending her dream of a solo circumnavigation nonstop, but not ending her voyage.

When asked why she didn't go back home when she encountered problems, her father answered: "I think Abigail set out to sail around the world and she will accomplish that."

Guinness World Records says it will no longer recognize "youngest ever" sailing records, because they are so risky. But still-younger sailors are hoping to get their yo-ho-ho on.

A Dutch family court barred 13-year-old Laura Dekker from raising her mainsail alone. But she may finally get her chance later this year.

Her quest completed after 210 days at sea, Jessica Watson pulled into Sydney Harbor early this spring to a huge welcome -- and a classic sailor's response.

"Jessica, you are our new Australian hero," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

"I am actually going to disagree with what our prime minister just said," Jessica told the crowd of well-wishers. "I don't consider myself a hero. I am an ordinary girl who believed in a dream. You don't have to be someone special to achieve something amazing. You just have to have a dream, believe in it and work hard."

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I certainly wouldn't allow my 16 year old to do it.

Not being someone who sails, I wouldn't either. However, if I had been doing it for many years, and my 16 year old had been sailing for 8 - 10 years, I don't know if my answer would be the same.

That said, Abby had only been sailing for 3 years I believe, and I think I would have a hard time letting my daughter go with that little experience.

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Nice parenting, ###hats.if they don't find her, enjoy your book royalties.

Thats all it was too.

I remember when the marketing machine started on this girl. She was to be the antithesis to the australian girl watson who was already on her worldwide voyage. Watson was a spoiled little rich twit, who was getting by because of "Daddies" connections. Sunderland on the other hand was portrayed as the quintessential girl next door. She came from the perfect pedigree of sailors, and her older brother had even completed the task. All that was missing was the perfect time, and this came with the assurance that Watson was easily going to break her brothers record without help.

With the nation losing its world record they had the perfect reason to get her moving. They knew if she started at the beginning of the year they could get perfect filming conditions as she finished her journey at the end of summer, and gained the nation the world record again.

This led to the sponsors buying her the boat on her 16th birthday, with the full intention she set off on a very specific timeline. During the 3 months between the time they bought her boat, and sent her on her way, they worked out many things. They set up the cameras and hot spots where they would be able to check her near the end of her journey, filmed many tv spots, and set her up perfectly for marketing. The marketing proved successful as that they were able to paint her into your everyday attractive teen. They even added in little slick things like her mom insinuating that she would be "soiled" if her "little blond thing" had to interact with poor people in port areas around the world :rolleyes:

^^Perfect propaganda piece to raise awareness about her.

During this voyage she would write a book, that would sell perfectly once she became a product when she came back. She would be a late summer sensation in the same mold as gymnast shawn johnson during the 2008 beijing olympics. She, and her sponsors, would all be very rich people when all of this was done.

Next post I will explain why she failed. -_-

Edited by Julian St.Clor
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To finish her journey in perfect timing Sunderland had to face horrible storms. She literally was going through the indian ocean during its peak storm season, and was the exact opposite of what Watson was doing. Watson, like Sunderlands brother, traveled around the strongest storm seasons. This meant Abby would have had to truly know her stuff if she wanted to finish successfully.....Slowly this showed not to be the case.

While Jessica Watson was prone to airhead moments(like most teenagers) she clearly knew her sailing.


^^The pink lady was a finely tuned machine, that was nothing like a childs toy some folks liked to lable it. Waton had complete control over her machine, and even knew how to perfectly replace every single part on it. Every single problem she had on her voyage was teken care of by her knowledge of the sip, and by her planning with spare parts that would be needed.

It was easy just looking at Watson without comparisons to their wonderchild, but they knew it was bad when they were both on the seas together. Unlike the often confused on land, but strong at sea Watson, Sunderland proved to be the exact opposite.

Sunderland's blog shows that of a little girl who was way in over her head. She mistakes her own location and landmarks on many occasions(Unlike Watson who was perfect with her location). Also Unlike Watson, Who could repair her own boat, Sunderland was severely limited by simple ship malfunctions that can be expected with long voyages. Her "All American" team didnt think about adding spare parts for many of the parts of the boat because they knew she couldnt repair them. So her racing boat moved slower than ever until she was forced to dock in south africa for professional help to repair(so much for poor areas soiling your "blond thing" eh mother?)

Why send a kid on a trip with a boat she was not truly comfortable with? Could it be the developers of the wild eyes was also on board to get rich off of the Sunderland express? -_- A boat she was so unfamiliar with that even right after she left she had issues controlling how much electricity she could use?

Either way this attempt is done.

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When I was 16, my folks didn't even want me driving on the interstate. It's unfortunate, but as someone pointed out, this is the risk when these kids try to sail around the world, or fly around the world, or whatever they're trying to do. They are putting their lives at risk, and this time, nature won.

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Searchers have made radio contact with her and say her boat is damaged, but she is alive and well.

Support team member Jeff Casher said the boat had gotten knocked on its side several times and the mast had broken

She's adrift in the southern Indian Ocean with rescue boats headed toward her.

The French regional administration on the island of Reunion also confirmed contact, which occurred Friday in that region of the Indian Ocean, and said it had sent three boats in her direction, the first is expected to reach her on Saturday

"She's got all the skills she needs to take care of what she has to take care of, she has all the equipment as well," said brother Zac, himself a veteran of a solo sail around the world at age 17

But renowned Australian round-the-world sailor Ian Kiernan said Abby should not have been in the southern Indian Ocean during the current southern hemisphere winter.

"Abby would be going through a very difficult time with mountainous seas and essentially hurricane-force winds," Kiernan told Sky News television.

Conditions can quickly become perilous for any sailor exposed to the elements in that part of the world.

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