Family Law

Girl, 16, on Solo Sail Round the World Is Found Alive After Being Feared Lost at Sea


Upated: A 16-year-old girl from California on a solo round-the-world sailing trip who had sent a distress signal to her family and was feared to be lost at sea in the frigid Southern Indian was Ocean was found unharmed late Thursday night.

At around 4 a.m., California time Thursday, Abby Sunderland communicated with her family, saying there were 30-foot swells but that she wasn’t in distress, the Associated Press reported. Within the hour, however, she manually activated distress signals.

At the time the search was launched, the nearest vessel was some 40 hours away, her brother Zac told a Los Angeles radio station at the time. Zac also said at the time that her boat likely wasn’t submerged, because an automatic distress that should have gone off under that circumstance had not activated.

Later yesterday, however, a crew of spotters aboard a Qantas Airlines jetliner spotted her and made radio contact, the Los Angeles Times reported. A mast had been knocked off her still-upright 40-foot boat. Sunderland is waiting for a fishing boat to arrive and retrieve her. Three French vessels were heading to Sunderland from the territory of Reunion, off the African coast, but were hundreds of miles away and are not expected to arrive for another day, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sunderland’s mishap is likely to reignite controversy over whether teens should be allowed to embark on such risky ventures.

A Dutch court intervened last year to prevent a 14-year-old girl from sailing around the world by herself, as detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post.

Meanwhile, a recent record-breaking climb of Mt. Everest by a 13-year-old boy from California had to be made from China after Nepalese authorities refused to allow Jordan Romero to make the ascent from their side of the world’s highest peak because of his age, the Christian Science Monitor recounts.

Sunderland at one point hoped to set a record as the youngest person ever to sail around the world but was foiled by equipment problems in April. Nonetheless, she continued with her sailing trip. On Monday, she completed the first half of her voyage.

“I wouldn’t let her go at 13, or at 14 or at 15,” her father, Laurence Sunderland, told the Los Angeles Times almost a year ago. “There’s a strength factor and they need to be mentally grounded in what this entails. It’s not a frivolous thing. The ocean is terrifying and you have to be prepared for all the adversities that it throws at you.”

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Climbing Everest Also Tested Lawyer’s Practice Management Skills”

Updated June 11 to indicate that Sunderland was contacted and found to be alive.

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