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Abby Sunderland on her boat; Map of route inset Abby Sunderland sets sail around the world on her boat, Wild Eyes, January 23, 2010. (Photo: Richard Hartog/AP Images) A map of her route from California to where she was stranded by storms in the Indian Ocean is pictured on the left. (Map: Jim McMahon)

Smashed Hopes on the High Seas

Sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland's solo sail around the world ends with a storm-smashed boat

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null
A photo taken on June 12, 2010, shows a French fishing boat rescuing 16-year-old Abby Sunderland from the Indian Ocean about 2,000 miles to the west of Australia. (Photo: Grant PIPE/AFP/Getty Images/NewsCom)
A photo taken on June 12, 2010, shows a French fishing boat rescuing 16-year-old Abby Sunderland from the Indian Ocean about 2,000 miles to the west of Australia. (Photo: Grant PIPE/AFP/Getty Images/NewsCom)

From the age of 13, California girl Abby Sunderland wanted to sail solo around the world. The 16-year-old set sail from Marina del Rey in January with high hopes that she could make her dream come true. After all, her brother Zac completed the voyage just last year, so she knew it could be done.

But a fierce storm in the Indian Ocean last week dashed Abby's dreams. Waves as tall as a three-story building crashed into her boat and snapped the mast in two. The storm also disabled her communications system. With the boat no longer fit to sail, Abby had to abandon her great adventure. She sent out emergency signals indicating that she needed to be rescued from her beloved, but badly damaged, sloop named Wild Eyes.

An international search-and-rescue effort began. It took three days for rescuers to reach the stranded sailor. On Saturday, a French fishing vessel (boat) arrived to pluck her from her remote position—about 2,000 miles to the west of Australia.

Abby said she was relieved and grateful for such a quick rescue.

"Everyone on board [the French boat] has been really friendly," she wrote on her blog. "They have come a long way out of their way to help me and I am so thankful that they did." Abby got to talk to her parents for about 20 minutes after her rescue Saturday.

"She sounded tired . . . but she was able to make jokes and she was looking forward to getting some sleep," her mother, Marianne, told reporters.
It will take about a week for Abby to reach land.

Too Young for the Trip?

Abby's attempted solo sail around the world has gotten a lot of criticism. Many think her parents were wrong to let their teenage daughter take on such a dangerous journey alone.

Her father, Laurence—a sailing teacher and boat builder, says he is confident in Abby's skill as a sailor. He pointed out that she had thousands of miles of successful solo sailing experience before she set out on this journey.

"Abigail is a very competent sailor. She's proven herself over and over again through this trip," Sunderland told reporters. "She's been through trials and tribulations on the ocean and has overcome them."

Abby is not discouraged by her failed attempt to sail around the world. She plans to try it again someday. For now, though, Abby is writing about her adventures. She may even write a book.

"I started to think about all the good times Wild Eyes and I have had together," she wrote on her blog. "All that's left of the voyage are my memories, eventually they will get fuzzy and I won't remember all the details. I don't want that to happen."


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