Clean up on aisle three

Published on January 2nd, 2019

To sail around the world, storms though the lower latitudes require a strategic approach. The smart money is to approach the Southern Hemisphere during its summer, when the conditions are ‘only’ horrific. Any other time is misguided, which resulted in the disastrous results for when 16-year old Abby Sunderland (USA) attempted to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe.

This was in 2010 during a period of heightened interest on setting “young” records. Successful circumnavigations had just been done by 17-year old Michael Perham (GBR) and 17-year old Zac Sunderland (USA), but with a failing of basic standards and a concern that age records may encourage irresponsibility, the World Sailing Speed Record Council closed the door on ratifying any similar attempts.

When Abby’s effort failed, she was rescued from her 40-foot boat by a diverted French fishing vessel nearly 2,000 miles off the coast of Australia. What followed was an attempted reality television show, a documentary, and a book, and while the 25-year old Abby has since moved on in her life, her boat Wild Eyes hasn’t moved far as reported by news.com.au:


The ghost boat, missing for eight years, has been discovered off Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. The boat was spotted by a tuna spotting plane and a police helicopter was sent to investigate, determining it to be the abandoned vessel.

Wild Eyes was discovered on New Year’s Eve floating upside down and covered in barnacles. The cost to taxpayers for Abby’s rescue and the shutdown of her vessel was between $200,000 and $300,000.

Abby first set sail from California in January 2010 but encountered technical problems early, with her solar panels failing, and had to stop in Mexico. She then continued on to Cape Town in South Africa over the next three months, and became the youngest ever sailor to pass the treacherous Cape Horn, with its unpredictable winds and wild waves.

She then continued on to the Indian Ocean, but was lashed by wild winds and nine metre waves. It was now June, during the meat of the winter storms, when she endured many knockdowns, which is when the boat capsized and was dismasted.

Here, in the Indian Ocean north east of the Kerguelen Islands, (isolated islands which are midway between Australia and Antarctica), both her satellite phones failed.

She decided to trigger both her emergency signals. She waited overnight 2000 miles off the coast of Australia to be located by a Qantas plane, and was eventually rescued by French commercial fishing boat.

After being rescued, Sunderland said she hoped to reattempt the round-the-world journey. She never did.

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