Teen Sailor Back on the Seas After Setbacks

On a partly cloudy day off the coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland re-launched her historic attempt to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and unassisted.

Dozens of Mexican yacht hands and tourists from the United States and Europe watched Saturday as Sunderland slid from her repair dock into the bay. Surrounded by boats filled with well-wishers, she hoisted her mainsail around the first bend of rock.

There were calm winds at first, but then a 15-knot gust of wind filled her sails and the vessel keeled violently.

Back in the boat for the first time in four days, she had no ballast, the placement of her lines was different, and she had too much sail for the force of the wind.

VIDEO: 16-Year-Old Girl Starts Solo Sail Around GlobePlay

But for a 16-year-old girl with a world record on her mind and the invincibility of youth, Sunderland simply dropped the mainsail a bit and headed into the wind, controlling both her sails and the speed of the boat, slowing down the world around her and taking command.

"It was at that point I began thinking of her as Captain Abby," said Scott Laurie, a marine engineer on Sunderland's team, who had been somewhat skeptical of both the boat's capabilities and those of the teenaged sailor who was commanding it.

Saturday's bid was the American teenager's second try. She'd been out to sea from Marina Del Rey, Calif. for 10 days 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. "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, re-routed the power consumption for some critical navigational instruments and loaded on more fuel.

"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."

Southern Storms Could Cause More Damage

At issue now is the weather around the southern tip of South America. For sailors it's one of the harshest seas on Earth. Strong winds, powerful currents, large waves and icebergs will all conspire to make life miserable for the teenager and her vessel.

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."

The longer Sunderland waited to launch her journey/a>, the more intense those South Sea storms would become once she got there.

"You would be stupid not to worry about the weather there," said Jeff Casher, a software engineer on Sunderland's support team. "But I think she has a really good chance of making it non-stop, unassisted. There may be some things that will break. She might have to sail the boat by hand [she has two autopilots onboard] and will be cold and wet. We'll see whether she has the stamina."

It remains to be seen whether she can continue to perform at the highest level of seamanship, given the grueling hours it takes to pilot a sailboat non-stop around the world. But even the most crusty old sailors who have observed her during the past few days in Cabo are impressed with her determination.

As for the vessel, the electrical systems are now fortified but other glitches are likely, Casher said.

Sunderland is slated to return to Cabo within six months after completing the 24,000-mile journey alone, sailing into the record books and the hearts and minds of those who see this as a grand adventure and silencing the critics who say she is too young to try.