Teen Sailor From Thousand Oaks Missing In Indian Ocean

A shot from Sunderland's yacht.
A shot from Sunderland's yacht.
Abby Sunderland.

The teenager who had set off from Marina Del Rey to become the youngest person to sail around the world appeared to be in trouble Thursday as she hit rough waters, lost contact with her family and set off an emergency beacon in the Indian Ocean. Abby Sunderland, a Thousand Oaks 16-year-old, had told her family that her boat motor had failed, saying she would call back via satellite phone -- a call that had yet to come.

Her brother told KNX 1070 Newsradio that she had hit "quite a heavy storm" on her journey Thursday.

Her family blogged the following:

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.

Sunderland is in an 40-foot racing yacht called Wild Eyes. She set off on her voyage Jan. 23 and expected to be at sea about six months. The record would remain elusive, however, because she had to sail into Cape Town, South Africa, for boat repairs. Her family stated that her vessel was aptly equipped with survival and emergency gear.

"We're still trying to figure out the rescue situation,'' said brother Zac Sunderland, an 18-year-old who is the youngest American to have sailed around the world. "There's two boats headed out to her position -- one of them is about 40 hours out, the other is 48 -- so right now we're just trying to figure out if there's any way faster.''

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us.


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