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Teen sailor Abby Sunderland to round Cape Horn Tuesday

by Nancy Knudsen on 28 Mar 2010
Abby - about to round the Horn. photo William Bennett ASC and Ted Caloroso SW
16-year-old Californian sailor Abby Sunderland, following Jessica Watson in her attempt to be the youngest non-stop circumnavigator, is only a couple of days away from sailing around her first big milestone, Cape Horn.

Her father has flown to the most southerly city in the world, Ushuaia, on Argentina's island of Tierra del Fuego to try to make contact with Abby as she passes the infamous Horn. To organise this he was helped by Jessica's family, who did the same thing a couple of months ago, overflying Jessica in a chartered aircraft.


Abby's father plans to sail south with 'some of the locals' to rendezvous with Abby, but the weather is expected to dictate whether this is possible or not.

Normally this rounding would be the toughest part of the voyage, but Abby has left her run so late that the other two capes could be challenging as well.

Already the cold and the damp are making their mark on the intrepid teen as she copes with ongoing autopilot problems. A recent night was spent hand steering in confused seas and freezing temperature, when she could get neither of her autopilots to function.

'It was really a very miserable night outside with freezing waves crashing over the boat, pouring rain, and 30-40 knots of wind,' she said later, 'Cold holds an entirely new meaning for me now. I don't think I will ever complain about being cold again, not after that night!'

The next day Abby was able to connect the screen of one autopilot to the controls of another, so for the moment, she has one complete and working system. The autopilot is critical to Abby as she does not have a wind steering device on board. The voyage would be thrown into jeopardy without a working autopilot system in these conditions.

Abby's late run were not due to bad planning, but due to her earlier difficulty with finding a suitable and affordable yacht to undertake the challenge in time to depart earlier in the season.

Abby began her journey on Jan. 23 when she sailed out of Marina del Rey. Within a week she was experiencing power problems as her batteries could not cope with the power drain from the autopilots in addition to her other power requirements like navigation lights and satellite communication.

She pulled into port in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where she was met by her support team who installed more batteries and remedied other problems. She left there Feb. 6, restarting her nonstop adventure. After Cape Horn, Abby will head northeast into the South Atlantic and past South Africa.

Abby left California some three months after Jessica Watson. Jessica is faring well, having passed under both Cape Horn and the southern tip of South Africa, and has 'only' 1400 miles from arriving under the coastline of Western Australia.

Even though Jessica left three months before Abby, the Thousand Oaks sailor still has a five-month age advantage over the Australian. Abby was born Oct. 19, 1993, while Jessica was born May 18, 1993.

Abby also is traveling on a faster Open 40 sailboat while Jessica is using a more classic 34-foot boat. No matter which one sets a record, it could soon be broken by Laura Dekker. The 14-year-old Dutch girl plans to set sail later this year on her own around-the-world trip in a Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch.

Henri-Lloyd 2022 December - SW FOOTERZhik 2024 February Outlet - FOOTERRS Sailing 2021 - FOOTER

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