Sailor in Distress
Recent news is that sixteen-year-old would-be circumnavigator Abby Sunderland has activated two out of three emergency beacons and is no longer in satellite phone contact with her support team on shore. French and Australian rescue services have been activated and two vessels are being diverted to her location in the south Indian Ocean.
Despite the recent success of fellow teen Jessica Watson's recent circumnavigation, many sailors have questioned the wisdom of sending young sailors out for records. The organization that keeps sailing speed records decided not to recognize any records by under-18 circumnavigators after Britain's Mike Perham completed his solo last year.
Some criticism has centered around the rush to get Abby's Open 40 "Wild Eyes" on the water, which left her with little time to get to know the boat or work out "bugs", and put her in hazardous Southern Ocean waters during that hemisphere's autumn and winter. Others have questioned the match of Abby to an aggressive racing machine.
Nonetheless, now is not the time for second guessing or criticisms. It is the time to support Abby and the rescuers who are searching for her. I hope that Abby is rescued in good health and comes away from this voyage with newfound wisdom. I also hope that she will be able to serve as a spokesperson for caution, careful preparation, good seamanship, and thus be able to steer other would-be voyagers away from excess perils.