Teen Sailor Abby Sunderland Found Alive; Family Is 'Relieved'

Abby Sunderland told rescuers her boat was battered in a heavy storm.

ByABC News via logo
June 1, 2010, 4:46 PM

June 11, 2010 — -- The teen attempting to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe has been found stranded at sea after a storm tossed her boat on its side and snapped the mast.

Abby Sunderland, 16, told search and rescuers around 11 p.m. PST Thursday that she was unharmed and had righted her boat, but had lost sailing capacity. Her family, sick with worry while Sunderland was lost at sea, was elated to hear the news.

"I think I knew in my heart she was okay, but your mind does play out different scenarios," her mother, MaryAnne Sunderland told "Good Morning America" today. "It was a very, very difficult few hours."

Abby's journey is over and she will return home, her father Laurence Sunderland told Australian news media.

The nearest boat to Sunderland is about 24 hours away. It is a fishing vessel and Sunderland may have to stay aboard and fish for awhile until she is able to return home.

Sunderland's boat, which lost contact with a support crew early Thursday, was found in the Southern Indian Ocean by an Qantas Airbus plane, which communicated with her via radio.

MaryAnne Sunderland, who is due to give birth at the end of the month, said she reminded herself throughout the ordeal that her daughter's boat was hard to sink, but "but that doesn't mean it wasn't dark, cold and frightening."

Her parents have been the target of some heavy criticism on the Internet for letting their 16-year-old daughter navigate the globe's treacherous seas on her own, but Laurence Sunderland earlier told "Good Morning America" that he had every confidence in her.

"Abigail had to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was more than competent," he said.

Life is dangerous, he added.

"How many teenagers die in car accidents every year?" he said. "Should we stop them from driving a car?"

Sunderland's brother, Zac Sunderland, who himself completed a similar trip around the globe, said today his sister's "got what it takes to deal with situations like this."

"I just told her to kind of be ready for it," he said. "Some time or another you are going to have a crazy storm or something is going to break."

Once Sutherland realized her boat was in trouble, she activated two emergency beacons. At her last point of contact before losing communications Thursday, she was in 20- to 25-foot waves with 35-knot winds.

Click HERE to watch Abby give a tour of her boat.

Abby last posted a blog entry from her boat, "Wild Eyes," on Wednesday night.

"It was a nice day today with some lighter winds which gave me a chance to patch everything up," she wrote. "Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do."

The weather was getting rough again, she noted.

"The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up," she wrote.

Abby's goal at the outset of her trip, to become the youngest sailor to pull off a solo nonstop circumnavigation, ended in April, when she was forced to stop in South Africa because her autopilot malfunctioned.