Disaster averted! Sailor Abby Sunderland, 16, who is attempting to set a world record by sailing around the world solo, has been found by aerial searchers in the Indian Ocean. Yesterday, while sailing east of Madagascar, Sunderland had told her father she was experiencing 35-knot winds and 25-foot waves. An hour later, she set off two of her emergency rescue beacons, one on her life vest and one on her lifeboat. Fortunately, the third emergency beacon, which automatically goes off when her vessel is under 15 feet of sea water, had not gone off. Australian Search and Rescue set off from Perth, Australia, following the rescue beacons, and eventually located her 40-foot boat, named Wild Eyes, about 2,000 west of Australia, last night around 2:30 a.m (ET). Abby was contacted by radio communication and reported that the boat has been de-masted by the stormy weather but was not flooded with water. A French fishing vessel nearby — rather, “nearby” — should reach her within 24 hours.
Abby grew up on boats and according to her blog, it has been her dream to sail around the world solo since she was 13. But Abby’s trip has not been an easy one: when she set sail on Jan. 23, she had hoped to circumnavigate the world without stopping. (Her older brother, Zac, sailed around the world alone at 17 last year and at the time was the youngest person ever to do so.) But since setting sail from Marina del Rey in L.A., Abby has been forced to dock numerous times to fix her engine and a malfunctioning auto-pilot and re-stock supplies. Abby has been blogging near-daily about her adventures, as well as doing media interviews, through satellite telephone and Skype, throughout the trip.
Her parents sound like amazing, supportive folks. When asked about the riskiness of letting their 16-year-old daughter sail around the world solo, her mother, Mary Anne Sunderland, said, “Could there be a tragedy? 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.”