The L.A. Times reports on her blog reaction to her accident. It quotes her writing:

Crazy is the word that really describes everything that has happened best. The long and the short of it is, well, one long wave, and one short mast (short meaning two inch stub.)

There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn’t the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean storm. Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?

Some people think it was utterly irresponsible of her parents to let her attempt this voyage. But let’s step back a bit and think about the steps that got her stranded in the middle of the Indian ocean. First-up, she had to learn to sail her yacht single-handedly. She did that. She had to learn how to navigate. She did that. She needed to sail around Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn and she did that. If she was not up to the job she would have screamed for help at the first sign of trouble.

She kept a blog and her entries show maturity far beyond her years as she deals with major problems. Here’s a sample:

Well, I got into my first squall of the night not long after I went to bed. The pilot went into standby and I went to jump out the companionway, but right as I was at the door I heard rushing water. Not water rushing along the hull but water rushing into the boat. I had water pouring into the back compartment and I had no idea where it was coming from. I grabbed a flash light and dived into the back getting soaked in the icy water. It was pouring in from the cock pit, but I still couldn’t tell where exactly.

I climbed over to where it seemed the main stream was coming from and got a closer look. It was coming through at the throttle mounting – the throttle that is mounted on the wall of the cockpit was under water because of how heeled over I was when I gybed. Having found the leak, I shut off the hatches to the back compartment. I was extremely relieved to have found that the leak was above the water line and as long as I could get the boat back under control I could sort it out.

I think when things like this happen you go into mild shock. After the initial horror of seeing water pouring into your boat, your mind just goes into a survival mode and you don’t give fear or any new problems a thought. It’s so important to be focused on dealing with the problem at hand that fear becomes dangerous, it makes you hesitant to deal with things and knocks your confidence.

Back outside, it was pouring buckets of rain. I hadn’t bothered to get my foul weather gear on. I didn’t have time to. I didn’t notice the cold. Wild Eyes was nearly flat on her side and the running back stay was stuck the wrong side of the boom. I clipped onto the boom and climbed onto the end. I would rather not have done that, but under the circumstances there was no other choice. I just hoped that things would stay stable enough while I was out there. At the end of the boom I was holding on as the big swells rolled the boat all over the place. It was steady for a minute and I let go and grabbed the back stay and worked it loose. I got off the boom as quickly as possible and hurried to get things sorted out.

Once I was back on track with less sail up, things seemed to be going better. I had the boat under control and didn’t hear the water in the back any more. I was still dreading going back there to see what damage had been done, but extremely glad to have it stopped temporarily.

There was quite a bit of water back there and in a hurry to get it all out before it reached any electronics higher up I got back there with a bucket to give my little bilge pump a hand. My diesel heater was soaked, the water had been spraying almost directly on it. Luckily nothing else seemed to be damaged and I have plenty of warm clothes!

I must say I wasn’t the happiest person in the world at that moment. I was soaked and beginning to really feel cold, in fact, I couldn’t stop shivering. I made my way up front and pulled out some dry clothes. Still shivering pretty badly I came back out and gave everything a good look over. Pretty much every thing down below is wet. I was thinking of going back to bed, but the sun was just beginning to come up and I was able to get my first glimpse of the swells that had been building over night – they were amazing!

Forgetting about the cold, I went back outside with my foul weather gear on this time. It’s really an amazing sight these walls of water that look like they’re just going to dump on you and then all of a sudden you pick up some speed and you go racing down at thrilling speeds.

Well that just about made up for the trouble during the night. Later when I was talking to my mom, I was told I did 237 miles is one day! Okay, so I am shooting for 250 miles but 237 is close enough for now and I can safely say that after hearing that, my day went from ranking pretty low with some of the least pleasant times I have had at sea, to one of the better times of my trip!

It sounds like she got hit by an even bigger storm that took out her yacht’s mast. Could an older sailor have saved their yacht? Probably not.

Note the role that technology played. She could blog while in the middle of an ocean. She was in constant contact with her family. She had an autopilot to help her sail alone, though it did cause her problems. I’m going to say she is one tough girl and she earns my admiration for her guts, determination and maturity.

When I was 16, I met Bruce Farr, the yacht designer behind New Zealand winning the America’s cup. He was a competitive yachtsmen in a junior sporting class. We went for a little sail that gave me a slight appreciation of what sailing was about. He was about 15.  I’m trying to imagine how he would be able to sail around the world single-handedly back then. The very idea was unthinkable. But the technology has advanced so far and so fast that any sufficiently dedicated teenager can undertake the challenge. I emphasize dedicated.  It still isn’t easy, as Abby’s voyage proves.

Jessica Watson, another 16 year old, recently became the youngest person ever to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.

In this day and age, we need people willing to blaze new trails, take risks, and shatter stereotypes. Abby Sunderland and Jessica Watson have done just that.

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