Skip to main content

Another teen sailor to begin circumnavigation

The sails are set, the safety gear is in good condition and the sea trials have been made. All Abby Sunderland needs is a fair breeze.

The 16-year-old was slated to depart at 11:30 a.m. Saturday from the Del Rey Yacht Club in her hometown of Marina del Rey, Calif., aboard Wild Eyes, her Scott Jutson-designed Open 40, determined to follow her dream of sailing non-stop around the world unassisted.

She was to set off Jan. 18, but a series of cold fronts blowing from the south caused her to wait for a more opportune weather window.

Abby is taking a cue from her older brother, Zac, who completed his solo-circumnavigation at age 17 and 231 days last July after leaving June 14, 2008 from Marina del Rey, Calif. Zac only held the "title" of youngest solo circumnavigator for one month and 11 days before British teen Mike Perham - who set out Nov. 18, 2008 - completed his non-stop journey Aug. 27, 2009. Perham was 17 years, 164 days at the time he completed the journey - the current record.

Abby and her family have been working to get her boat, Wild Eyes, ready for the voyage. Abby's father, Laurence - a shipwright and owner of Sunderland's Yacht Management in Marina del Rey - and his team have worked on upgrading a number of systems on the vessel, adding a new autopilot and AIS WatchMate, a collision-avoidance display supplied by Vesper Marine, the manufacturer based in Auckland, New Zealand.

"We're trying to be as prepared as we can," says Abby. "We had an external alarm put in that's loud enough to wake the dead in case I'm getting too close to a vessel."

Also looking to set a record is Jessica Watson, the 16-year-old Australian teen who is five months older than Abby and who just recently completed the biggest hurdle in her trip - rounding the treacherous Cape Horn. Watson hopes to complete the trip before her 17th birthday on May 18.

For information, visit

— Elizabeth Ellis