Round-the-world teen returns home to California
Abby Sunderland has spoken publicly for the first time about the moment she was dismasted in the Indian Ocean on June 10.
The 16-year-old American was fixing her engine when a ‘rogue wave’ struck her Open 40, Wild Eyes, ending her dream of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
The wave knocked her down and Abby hit her head, temporarily blacking out.
After regaining consciousness, she rushed on deck and found a one-inch fiberglass stump where her mast once stood.
‘There was nothing there. There was nothing to jury-rig.’ she said.
Back below deck she discovered that both her engine, which she had successfully repaired, and her satellite phone, which she had just been using to communicate with her parents, had been ruined by the water that flooded her boat. It was then she activated her EPIRBs.
She said: ‘I worked to try and find some way that I could get myself and the boat to land without having to set off my EPIRBs.
‘Once I realised that wasn’t going to be happening, I set them off.’
A low-flying Qantas jet passed by the next day and Abby told the searchers that she was doing fine with a space heater and at least two weeks worth of food when they made contact with her via radio.
She said: ‘It was disbelief and excitement to know I was going to be rescued.’
When the French fishing vessel, Ile de Reunion, reached her a couple of days later, Abby scrambled onto the fishing vessel in bare feet, taking nothing from the boat.
‘Everything was soaked or buried, so I didn’t bring anything,’ she said.
‘I wasn’t quite ready to leave. To just step off of it and know that I’m never going to see that boat again, it was really hard.’
As Abby spoke at the press conference in Marina del Rey (pictured above with her brother Zac), the port she set off from on January 23, her mother, Marianne, was giving birth to a baby boy, who the family plan on naming Paul, after Paul-Louis Le Moigne, the Ile de la Reunion’s captain.
In their absence Abby defended her parents’ decision to allow her on the voyage and vowed to continue sailing.
She said: ‘My trip didn’t end because of something I did wrong.
‘I loved pretty much every second of my trip and I really don’t ever want to forget all the great memories of that.
‘I’ve sailed 12,000 miles and I’m proud of my achievements. The more I sail, the more I like sailing.’
The family said in a statement that they were willing to forgive critics who don’t know them or understand Abby’s experience and ambition.
Sunderland dismissed reports that there was to be a reality show or documentary about her journey and her family’s seafaring life, but said she may write a book based on the notes she’s written herself to help remember her experience.