Abby Sunderland Quits Around-the-World Sail Record Attempt

Abby Sunderland says auto pilot needs repair, doesn't consider trip a failure.

February 10, 2010, 4:45 PM

April 25, 2010— -- Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old California girl who was trying to become the youngest person to sail solo nonstop around the world, has given up her attempt to set the record, she said on her blog.

"I have some big news today. It's not necessarily good news, but the way I look at it, it's not bad either," Sunderland posted Saturday. "I am going to be pulling into Cape Town for repairs thus ending my non-stop attempt."

The problem, she said, was that her main auto pilot was broken, and after discussions with her team, she decided she needed to get it fixed.

"It's one thing to sail across an ocean with one well-working auto pilot, it's another to keep going with one that is not at all reliable," she wrote.

She said she expected to reach Cape Town, South Africa, in 10 to 14 days.

Though she's given up the attempt to go nonstop, she said she would continue her sail after getting the auto pilot repaired, and she has worked through her disappointment.

"I gave it my best shot and made it almost half way around the world," she wrote. "I will definitely keep going, and whether or not I will make any more stops after this I don't know yet. I admit I was pretty upset at first, but there is no point in getting upset. Whats done is done and there is nothing I can do about it.

"I know that some people will look on my trip as a failure because of this, and there really isn't anything that I can do about that," she wrote. "When you're surrounded by critics it can be hard to remember your own goals and expectations, you start to judge yourself by what other people are saying."

Sunderland began her trip Jan. 23, sailing out of Marina del Rey, California, in the open 40-foot racing yacht Wild Eyes. She said she expected it to take six months.

Abby Sunderland Says Auto Pilot Problems Force Her to End Nonstop Sail

But she had to pull into port 10 days later, when her electrical system failed to generate enough energy to power critical navigation and communication equipment, forcing her to port for repairs.

"At first I was really upset about it," Sunderland told ABC News from the repair dock at the Cabo San Lucas Marina in Mexico. "I didn't want to stop. I was just getting into a routine out there. But my wind generator wasn't putting out enough, and at night the solar panels were useless. So I used my engines and it was quickly becoming evident that I would run out of fuel because I was running my engines so much."

A team of engineers, along with her father Laurence, flew to Mexico to meet her and fix the power generation issue. They installed new, bigger batteries, adjusted the belts on the alternator, rerouted the power consumption for some critical navigational instruments and loaded on more fuel.

At that time, she decided to resume the nonstop attempt, with the starting and ending point shifted from Marina del Rey to Cabo San Lucas.

"Right now, I think my biggest challenge is getting down to Cape Horn in time," Sunderland said."It's a little worrying that if the wind dies down I might have to stop and wait until next season."

Sunderland made it around the southern tip of South America, which is considered one of the harshest seas on Earth for sailors, but the problems with the auto pilot finally sank her effort.

Another teenage sailor attempting to sail around the world, Jessica Watson of Australia, capsized her boat four times in January in the South Seas.

"'We experienced a total of 4 knockdowns," Watson wrote in her blog. "The second was the most severe, with the mast being pushed 180 degrees in to the water. Actually pushed isn't the right word, it would be more accurate to say that Ella's Pink Lady [Watson's yacht] was picked up, thrown down a wave, then forced under a mountain of breaking water and violently turned upside down."

Abby Sunderland's Brother Zac Succeeded His Attempt With Under-18 Around-the-World Sailing Title

Just last summer, Sunderland's older brother Zac set the world record for being the first person under age 18 to circumnavigate the globe solo in a sailboat.

His record was eclipsed a few months later by British teenager Mike Perham, who is a few months his junior.

ABC News' Bert Rudman contributed to this report.

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