Last updated: June 13, 2010

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Abby's father believed her boat was upside down

Abby Sunderland

NIGHTMARE: Teen sailor Abby Sunderland's parents are praying for a miracle that their daughter will be rescued from massive seas after activating distress beacons from her stricken yacht. Source: AP

ABBY Sunderland's father believed his daughter's boat has flipped upside down and says the family was praying for a miracle that she was alive inside the vessel.

Laurence Sunderland was speaking with his 16-year-old daughter by satellite phone about engine problems she was having about 4am western US time (2100 Thursday AEST) when the phone line cut out, he told ABC radio early today.

``She had quite a boisterous night at 60 knots,'' Mr Sunderland said.

``She was knocked down three times and the radar was ripped off the boat, and she had an engine issue.

``She's definitely had her cage rattled last night but after dealing with the engine issue and getting things up and running everything seemed to be fine.''

Mr Sunderland said he thought Abby was simply charging her phone batteries when the call dropped, but shortly afterwards, he received a call from US search and rescue saying her emergency beeper had been set off.

He initially thought her automatic beacon had set off accidentally due to the high winds, but soon discovered Abby had set off her hand-held emergency beeper.

Mr Sunderland now believes his daughter's boat is upside down in the water.

``Right now we're hoping that if indeed the boat is upside down then that the keel is actually off the boat and giving the boat a positive flotation factor and that she is inside the bubble, safe,'' he said.

Asked if he believed Abby would be able to handle the situation calmly, Mr Sunderland said he hoped so.

``However, we all have breaking points and she's had a couple of boisterous days out there.

``It's going to take a bit of a miracle.''


Conditions are poor and ``quite dangerous'' where the US teenager is believed to have hit trouble during her Jessica Watson-style sailing bid around the world.

But Australian authorities involved in the search mission say hopes are high that 16-year-old Abby will be found safe and well.

Abby was past the halfway mark of her solo sailing trip on Thursday and sailing toward Australia's west coast when she hit trouble, activating two manual distress beacons.

A Qantas passenger jet, tasked by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, is expected to be the first on the scene about 2000 nautical miles west-south-west of Perth.

It left at first light this morning.

``Once it gets to the position, we're hoping they will be able to sight Abby's yacht and make contact with her over the radio,'' AMSA spokeswoman Carly Lusk told ABC Radio.

``Conditions in the area at the moment are extremely poor.

``We're experiencing in that area 90km/h winds ... so it's quite dangerous.''

Abby spoke to her parents in the United States just an hour before the distress beacons were activated, telling them she'd been knocked down several times due to the weather.

Several ships, co-ordinated by the international search effort which also includes French and US authorities, are on their way to the area.

Ms Lusk said as always, there was high hopes of a positive outcome.

``Going by the drift of the actual beacon in the water, we're hoping that she is still inside the vessel which is obviously hopefully upright.''

Abby's water-activated beacon was not set off.

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  • James of Murray Bridge Sth Australia Posted at 10:03 AM June 12, 2010

    Shaun T, A hero,No. An adventurous person ,Probably. a hero is someone who places themselves in life threatening situations to aid others. She is doing this for her own benefit , and instead of having contingency plans in place to cover her when things go wrong , others who are not involved or included in HER plans have to place their lives at risk and finance HER rescue.Like I have said,with these people it is all ME ME ME, with no thought to the hardships their plans might place on others. Everyone has a right to full-fill their dreams but they don't have the right to place others in peril to do it or place financial burdens on others when really what they do means little or nothing to anyone but themselves and their families. the world won't be a better place for it , no empty bellies will be filled nor any roofs put over heads.And possibly there will be injuries or loss of life to those who have to pull her out of the situation SHE and her family placed themselves in.

  • Shaun T Posted at 7:39 AM June 12, 2010

    I think the media should get off her parents back! If Abby didn't run into any problems (beyond her control) she would have made it, and been a hero! She clearly was prepared for this adventure and handled her situation professionally! People need to mind there own business! I bet if you looked at "their" children's grades, asked them their plans for the future,if they have any goals or achieved any dream they had,(And i mean, their dream, not their parents!).You would most likely find an over weight, solitary kid who is an excellent video gamer with no future plans. Sad. Congradulations Abby to you, and your brother and mom and dad! Awsome story!!

  • James of South Australia Posted at 9:28 PM June 11, 2010

    Lets hope all turns out well and she is reunited with her family. It seems to me that if you undertake these things you should also think of the lives of those who have to brave the same conditions to rescue you when things go wrong.Also in these days of global hardship it hardly seems responsible to expect other countries to foot the bill for the stupidity of these ill-conceived and ill-advised actions of spoilt brats and morons.It's all about them , with no thought or care to the dangers they thrust upon others.Who cares if you sail around the world ,is that going to help the starving and dispossessed , nope,coz it's all about you.The parents should pay the costs, they are the ones responsible for this. Hang on ,didn't her brother also have to be rescued , from pirates I believe , but somehow they see it as safe for their 16 year old daughter.If brains were dynamite these people couldn't blow their nose.

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