What drives a person to attempt a feat of unparalleled danger and peril such as a solo sailing around the globe? History is filled with stories of failed efforts and an occasional successful journey most recently in 2 trips completed, one by a young American teen boy and then an English lad who set a world record as the youngest ever to do so. An even younger American teenage girl now seeks to beat all records for age and speed.
Abby Sunderland is the latest to test herself and her boat with a global passage. Since she left Marina Del Ray, California in January of this year, she has already weathered some of the most difficult seas that sailors have faced. She sailed and sat through the Doldrums as she passed the coast of South America and rounded the stormy Cape Horn. Through many a lonely day, she has kept in touch with family and her team through the tools available to 21st century sailors like the internet where she shares her experiences on her blog. She is also able to maintain contact with her family and advisors using a satellite cell phone. Abby’s father who is an experienced sailor and taught Abby and her brother the art and science of sailing described a sailing adventure like this as 80% boredom, 15% on the edge, and 5% sheer terror.
Abby’s goals for the trip – in addition to a successful ending - were to accomplish it as the youngest person to do so and to do it without stopping at any port until she returned to California. Her boat, Wild Eyes, was built especially for the demands of a global circumnavigation, but like many a journey which tests a person and their equipment, Abby had to forego her goal of no stops as the boat needed repair. She was forced to stop in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Her passage around Cape Horn did provide her with the distinction of being the youngest sailor to ever do so alone.
Through the tough seas rounding the Cape, she headed into the southern Atlantic waters and a broad stretch of open water. Because of concern for ice, Abby had to be vigilant during this period. Trouble soon surfaced anew. This time with the malfunction of her auto pilot which is critical to her safety as it affords her the opportunity to get much needed rest from the endless hours of ocean sailing. Abby communicated with her support team and considered her options. Being in the middle of the Atlantic with no port close by, she had to consider abandoning her trip and starting again. Another option was to sail without it until she could reach a port to have the equipment fixed. For Abby, the choice was simple – go on even if it meant greater personal hardship until she had the autopilot fixed. She headed for Cape Town, South Africa.
It was not an easy leg of the trip as she was worried about shipping and also about the possible confrontation with a gale. Yet her spirit was strong and she endured. In her blog, she shared how it felt. “About 5 miles out, soaked, uncomfortable and pretty worried, I still couldn't see land because of the fog. All of a sudden the sun came out, the wind died down to a nice 15 knots and I had just changed course to head in towards the breakwater so I had the wind more behind me and was surfing nicely down the swell. A dolphin came out to play at the bow of Wild Eyes, surfing along with us. With the sun out land was just about visible and it was really a great end to the past few less than fun days”. She landed in Cape Town, South Africa on May 5th. This landing was her 2nd unscheduled stop and was the 103rd day of her long journey. There she was greeted by her family and supporters. Her celebrity was known in advance and she was feted by the manager of a local hotel, the Cape Grace Hotel, who offered free rooms at the hotel to the entire party.
With hopes for a quick repair of her equipment Abby prepares for the next leg of her journey. Soon she will round the tip of Africa and enter into waters that are both treacherous and exposed to the pirates that hijack vessels in these seas. Her planned itinerary, however, has been developed to keep her adequately distant from this threat.
With repairs near completion, Abby looks to the open water and the opportunity to continue her journey of a lifetime.