For the past several years, the sailing world watched junior sailors vying for the accolade of being the youngest to solo circumnavigate.
Abby Sunderland in calmer conditions
First, it was Zac Sunderland, the soft-spoken, all-American kid from Marina del Rey, California, who became the youngest person to solo circumnavigate on July 16, 2009, at the age of 17.
Next, we learned of Englishman Mike Perham, three-and-a-half months Sunderland’s junior, who successfully circumnavigated on an Open 50, besting Sunderland.
Then, attention spun to Australian Jessica Watson, 36 months younger than Sunderland, who returned into Sydney Harbor on May 15, 2010, her smile wide.
Somewhere in that timeframe, Sunderland’s younger sister, 16 year old Abby, almost two years Zac’s junior, set out on her own journey.
Then, 14 year old Laura Dekker, a Kiwi living in The Netherlands, also became interested, although a court order forbade her from setting sail. Pundits the world over argued over the safety (and parental judgment) of these teenage endeavors, but somehow each sailor made it back to port without serious incident.
Until now. Abby Sunderland’s manually operated EPIRB and her personal-locator beacon both lit up before 0600 PDT, Thursday, somewhere in the vast, wind-ravaged Southern Ocean between the Cape of Good Hope and Australia’s Cape Leeuwin. Her father said her her yacht might be upturned.
Latest news is that Australian airline Qantas have made VHF radio contact, she is safe and uninjured on her dismasted and upright racing yacht Wild Eyes.
We will continue to post news as it happens.