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Abby Sunderland: Have boat, will sail

Newsletter_102909_06_frontCalifornia sailor Abby Sunderland had the determination for a solo circumnavigation, but she didn't have the boat. That changed when she and her father, Laurence, bought an Open 40 in Portsmouth, R.I., Oct. 19 - Abby's Sweet 16.

Soundings joined the Sunderlands at the Hunt Yachts yard during the purchase, and between managing a survey and calling Australia in search of a hard-to-find alternator, the American teen looking to claim the title of youngest solo circumnavigator spoke about her upcoming voyage.

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Click play for a tour of Abby's new Open 40.
"I've been wanting to do this since I was 13 - well before Zac was going to go," says Abby, referring to older brother Zac Sunderland, who completed a solo circumnavigation July 16 at age 17.

Abby is five months younger than the other teen currently chasing the title, 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson. Watson sailed out of Sydney Oct. 18 aboard Ella's Pink Lady, her Sparkman & Stephens 34.

Click here for the latest on Watson's attempt.

While Watson was making her way toward New Zealand, the Sunderlands were preparing Abby's Open 40 for a sail to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where it will be shipped to their home port of Marina del Rey, Calif. Wild Eyes - a Scott Hollers Jutson design built in 2001 by ASA Yachts of Australia - went around the world as BTC Velocity in the 2002-'03 Around Alone, helmed by Bermuda sailor Alan Paris.

Abby is aiming to depart in early December. "We plan to map out some emergency ports just in case anything goes wrong," she says, "but I want to go non-stop as much as possible."

The family had originally eyed an Open 40 in Nassau, Bahamas, but the boat in Portsmouth was closer to their price range. The Sunderlands have raised $150,000 in what the family is calling Project Global Breeze, and they stayed within budget on the purchase of Wild Eyes.

"We have one major sponsor with Shoe City Inc.," a chain store based in Whittier, Calif., says Abby. "We are still looking for a second major sponsor, but even if we don't find one I'm still going to try to pull this off."

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Zac Sunderland circumnavigated aboard Intrepid, a 1972 Islander 36, sailing 24,568 miles from his June 2008 departure in Marina del Rey. He held the title of youngest solo circumnavigator for less than a month and a half before British teen Mike Perham, who is 108 days younger, claimed it. Perham also is 17. He sailed a chartered Open 50, TotallyMoney.com.

Laurence Sunderland says Abby isn't sailing Intrepid because it made more sense to get the Open 40 rather than prepare a 37-year-old boat for it's second circumnavigation in less than two years.

"It is a little harder to see your daughter go off on [a voyage] like this," says Laurence, a shipwright and owner of Sunderland's Yacht Management in Marina del Rey. "But she's got the experience to see this through."

Abby has done solo deliveries for her father's company since she was 13, says Laurence. Sailing is a way of life for the Sunderland family, so she is qualified for the circumnavigation, he says.

Newsletter_102909_05"[This trip] is dangerous, but most things in life are dangerous," says Laurence. "How many teenagers die in cars every year? With her upbringing, she will overcome the rough times and bring the boat safely into port."

Abby says she has been training to prepare for the physical rigors of single-handing a racing yacht around the world. "My biggest concern is fatigue, which is something every sailor goes through," she says. "Sometimes you're exhausted, and that's really hard to deal with. Sailing is always a risk, even for the most experienced sailors."

Wild Eye's equipment list includes radar, an EPIRB, high-frequency radio, life raft and satellite phone, among other gear. And there will be backup systems, she says. And, of course, she has her big brother to turn to for firsthand advice.

"I have tried to knock her confidence by telling her my scary stories, mostly so she will better understand what she is getting into," says Zac, who is joining Abby and Dad on the sail to Fort Lauderdale. "She is still confident and totally focused on going."

Zac says safety must remain a high priority. "You cannot go to sleep with a ship within two to four miles," he says. "You just never know. Reef early, eat often, and look at the bright side of everything."

"Zac's been very supportive," Abby says. "We originally thought about Zac and I sailing together on separate boats, but there was not enough time to raise money for two people."

Comments (14) Comments are closed
14 Wednesday, 30 June 2010 18:14
Ted O'Brien
What happened to the boat after her rescue? Was it towed in? Sunk? Set adrift?
13 Wednesday, 30 June 2010 00:16
Cornelia Seigneur
ADVENTURE! good for her for trying and going after her dreams.
12 Tuesday, 15 June 2010 21:39
Jonathan Lawson
Mike, please find something to foam at the mouth about besides the terrible burden you seem to think is being foisted upon you by Abby Sunderland and family. America is in debt because Abby tried to sail around the world? Even Tea Party complainers aren't that stupid. Your comparison of Abby as the equivalent of a welfare mother with 5-10 children by different fathers reveals a level of ignorance that would be better kept to yourself. The search and rescue is being handled by the Australians and the French, neither of whom have any intention of asking anybody for reimbursement. In fact, Australians are not at all happy that the subject is even an issue with the tiny American minds that seem to be venting endlessly about Abby and family. You can let go of the grip on your wallet, Abby will not be reaching into it.
11 Monday, 14 June 2010 21:20
Mike Jones
I am glad that she is safe but how dumb are these parents? This is why America has so much debt. How is it any better for a girl to set sail on an expensive boat that her parents can't pay for the rescue then a woman on welfare to have 5-10 children by different fathers and not expect to pay for the children? There needs to be consequences for dumb actions or people will continue to do stupid things and expect no consequences for their actions. Sell your boat or boats and pay your debts. I, an American taxpayer, do not need to pay for your stupid decisions. Think before you act. I would have loved to do something like this when I was 16 but I was working my summer job to pay for college. The parents of this family need to set an example and teach their children that they must pay their debts in life.
10 Sunday, 13 June 2010 17:51
James Baldwin
Even though she did not complete the trip, she has done more than most. This is a thing for which she should be proud, and for which she will be able to look back on with great memories.
9 Saturday, 12 June 2010 23:10
Linda, just out of curiosity, have you ever spent any time at sea... I don't mean on a cruise ship, but on a small well found cruising yacht....if not then you don't have a clue how wonderful being at sea is... also 99 % of the time at sea is benign,,, its that 1 percent that can be scary... but experience, training and preparation is how we handle it... Well done Abby...as for her parents footing the bill for resuce,,, that is up to them... the precedent as far as I know is that the rescued at sea don't pay.... but I may be wrong.... anyway Abby if you read this well done... Fair winds and following seas..

been sailing my own boats for 40 years...
8 Saturday, 12 June 2010 02:49
Dear Elizabeth Ellis,

This is one of the nicest, most professional and balanced pieces of reporting I've read in the last twenty years. The same compliments for the video, with the added compliment of pulling off some great shots in space that is quite small and not full of light. May your career flourish and that we get to see your work in many places. One reason why the big networks are going down? They don't have reporters like you!
7 Saturday, 12 June 2010 01:48
As a long time avid sailor and professional seaman, I will say that Abby is far safer sailing around the World in her well equipped boat with her support team than if she was driving to a mall in her home community. And I know of very few parents who would say no to a teenager going to the mall.
While I do not personally know Abby, I have been following her story and seen her comments and interviews. I would much rather be sailing on any sea with her than with a majority of the boaters I deal with constantly on the waters of our country. Even at 16 she is more “professional” and prepared and knowledgeable than 90% of those out on the water around the world today. She is well trained and well prepared for this circumnavigation. And in my opinion as a maritime professional, for a bunch of armchair landlubber motormouths with a computer to be condemning her parents is absurd. I for one am proud of her and would gladly sail on any sea in the company of such a mature and well trained sailor.
I know many professional “captains” who are not as prepared as she is, and the credit goes to her parents for raising such a mature and capable daughter.
6 Friday, 11 June 2010 18:10
They're VERY lucky she is ok. If she did die at sea and her remains were never found it would have haunted them the rest of their lives. Her family should be made to pay for search and rescue efforts for this reckless and unnecessary stunt.
5 Friday, 11 June 2010 14:25
I am happy they found her. By the sound of it Linda, I don't think it has to do with greed. I am sure her father is quite wealthy since he owns a yacht management company and is a shipwright. In fact when I win the lottery I am going to move to CA and have his company manage my yacht.
4 Friday, 11 June 2010 07:14
Linda - Learn to live a little - because you can't live without taking risk - Children are defined by their limitations, not their age, which puts Abby into adulthood much earlier than some. People are only capable of doing what has been required of them. For you, that could possibly be very little, for Abby, she has been training for this her entire life, and loving it. And last but not least, blaming a parent of their mistake when they are down is a true sign of a bully. Grow up.
3 Thursday, 10 June 2010 23:54
My heart goes to the brother the PARENTS ARE TO BLAME. I have NO EMPATHY for them sacrificing their children for ATTENTION & GREED!
Not to mention wasting the monies of others to have to search for a child that never should have been out there to begin with.
2 Thursday, 10 June 2010 22:08
Al Turcotte
Here's praying everything is OK.
1 Thursday, 10 June 2010 20:25
kris kensington
My heart goes out to abby's family and friends. My prayers are with her and all of you at this time...have faith. All the best....
fbtwit yt

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