Thursday, June 10, 2010

16-year old Abby Sunderland is lost in Indian Ocean

Abby Sunderland is the 16-year-old girl who was sailing around the world in attempt to set a record as the youngest ever to do so. According to The Associated Press she is currently missing between Africa and Australia. Reports came from her brother that the teen navigator lost contact with her family this past Thursday when she was in the Southern Indian Ocean. Reportedly, Abby was sailing into a storm at the time and her emergency beacons were activated.

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The family provided an update on the situation at They've noted that Australian Search and Rescue will be sending an airbus over her location as soon as possible. However, the best they will be able to do is communicating with her via marine radio and providing her support to address her emergency situation, if needed. According to the note posted here, Abby has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis.

Abby set sail from Los Angeles County's Marina del Rey on Jan. 23 in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone without stopping. Abby soon ran into equipment problems and had to stop for repairs. She gave up the goal of setting the record in April, but continued on. Her website says she left Cape Town, South Africa, on May 21 and on Monday reached the halfway point of her goal.

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The search will continue for Abby Sunderland between Africa and Australia. Hopefully it was a glitch with some equipment that caused the distress/emergency beacon signal. Let's hope she is located soon and everything is fine with Abby.

Abby's father struggled with emotions and said he didn't know if his daughter was in a life raft or aboard the boat, or whether the boat was upside down.

"Everything seemed to be under control," Laurence Sunderland said. "But then our call dropped and a hour later the Coast Guard called."

Sunderland’s Boat
Sunderland's yacht, Wild Eyes, is a 40-foot (12.19 m) sloop built in 2001 by A.S.A. Yachts PTY, Australia. It was designed by Jutson Yacht, Australia, specifically to be sailed single-handed through the Southern Ocean. As BTC Velocity, the vessel finished second in the Class 3 (Open 40) category of the Around Alone 2002 race. Wild Eyes is constructed of E-glass with Kevlar reinforcement into five watertight compartments with a crash bulkhead and a stern escape hatch. It was bought in Rhode Island by the Sunderland family in October 2009, then sailed by Abby and Zac, with their father Laurence, to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for transport to California. Wild Eyes was refit in Marina Del Rey, California with an array of electrical, communication and navigation systems.

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Abby is hundreds of miles from land. The nearest ship was about 400 miles away. The rescue effort is being coordinated by the French-controlled Reunion Islands and Australia. Sunderland had been sailing in 50- to 60-foot seas and it was dark when the EPIRB devices were activated.

The Sunderlands are asking people to pray for their daughter, a high-school junior from Thousand Oaks, Calif.

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The latest official note from Abby Sunderland family

June 10th, 2010 10:23am We spoke with Abby early this morning and learned that she had had a very rough day with winds up to 60 knots and seas 20-25 feet. She had been knocked down several times but was handling things well. The wind had subsided to around 35 knots which she and Wild Eyes are quite comfortable with. 
We were helping her troubleshoot her engine that she was trying to start to charge her systems. Satellite phone reception was patchy. She was able to get the water out of the engine and start her up. We were waiting to hear back from her when American Search & Rescue authorities called to report having received a signal from her emergency beacon (EPIRB). We initially thought that the signal was sent automatically from her water-activated EPIRB and that it had been activated during one of her knockdowns. As we pulled the paperwork from her EPIRB registration, we learned that the signal had come from her manually activated EPIRB. 
We were referred to Australian Search & Rescue and while we were on the phone with them another signal came in from her handheld PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). Her water-activated EPIRB has not been activated so we are hopeful that the boat is still upright.  
We are working closely with American, French and Australian Search & Rescue authorities to coordinate several ships in the area to divert to her location. There are several ships in her area, the earliest possible contact is 40 hours. We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location. Australian Search & Rescue have arranged to have a Quantas Airbus fly over her location at first light (she is 11 hours later). They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us.
Abby has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis situation like this. She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies. If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible. Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize.
Thank you for all of your kind emails and calls. We appreciate your prayers and support.
We will update as soon as there is some news. 
Laurence, Marianne and Team Abby

Latest Video Interview with Zac, Abby’s Brother:

Sources and Additional Information:

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