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Abby Sunderland is OK. Located by an Australian jet, she was awaiting rescue by French boats out of Madagascar Friday after spending about 20 hours "off the grid" with a mast broken by the 70-mph winds she encountered in the south Indian Ocean. Sunderland, 16, from southern California, had been trying to set an unofficial record as the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
The New York Daily News article I'm quoting from here says that because of her brush with death, "her parents faced waves of criticism for allowing Abby's adventure." But her father had an answer for the critics.
"How many teenagers die in car accidents every year? Should we stop them from driving cars?" Laurence Sunderland told Good Morning America.. "Life is dangerous."
The record Sunderland hoped to break was set a few weeks ago by an Australian girl, Jessica Watson, also 16. When she finished her voyage, I reported on this blog what Webb Chiles, a former classmate of mine who's sailed around the world five times by himself, had written about her feat as it was happening:
I expect that these attempts will continue with ever younger participants until one of them is killed, or, considering that they are closely monitored puppets on a string, gets into serious trouble and has to be rescued, at which time I believe the parents should be prosecuted for child abuse.
That would be in addition to paying the bill for services rendered. Laurence and Marianne Sunderland wrote on their daughter's blog, when her fate looked iffy: "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 "
We'll see if the Sunderlands have to answer to anyone more formidable than morning television. The Daily News reported: "Seasoned sailors say Abby Sunderland started her voyage too late in the year and she should not have been in the southern Indian Ocean during the winter storm season." But if she'd waited for better weather, would she have been able to finish still young enough to break Watson's record?