Last updated: June 14, 2010

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Solo sailor Abby Sunderland found and Australia is to foot the bill

Abby Sunderland

A distress signal had been activated when Abby Sunderland has lost contact with her crew / AP Source: AP

Reunion Island

Reunion Island (blue marker) near where teen solo sailor Abby Sunderland was missing. Picture: Google Maps Source: news.com.au

Search area

The possible location of teen sailor Abby Sunderland / News Ltd image Source: News Limited

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AUSTRALIA will pay for its part in the search and rescue of teenage solo sailor Abby Sunderland.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority chief executive Mick Kinley said searchers saw and made radio contact with 16-year-old Abby just after 4pm (AEST) today.

"She sounds like she's in good health, as far as we can tell, and she's going to hang in there,'' Mr Kinley told said in Canberra.

Australian authorities commissioned a Qantas plane to search for Abby, who encountered extremely rough weather in the Indian Ocean about 3700km off the coast of Western Australia.

Mr Kinley did not say how much the rescue mission would cost, but said there would be no attempt to recover costs.

Abby's emergency beacon went off outside Australia's search and rescue region, in the region of La Reunion and La Reunion asked Australia for assistance.

The boat then drifted into Australia's search and rescue region. Australia is now co-ordinating the rescue mission.

When asked if Australia would seek to get the money back, Mr Kinley said: "No, that's the way the system runs.

"We would expect people to rescue any Australian yachtsman in these conditions,'' he said.

"It's our obligation to do this and we'll fulfil those obligations as Australia does.''

A vessel should reach her in about 24 hours, he told reporters at 5pm (AEST).

Her boat was upright but had lost its mast due to rough weather conditions.

"She's in the boat, the boat's seaworthy, it's not taking on water,'' Mr Kinley said.
 

Abby's relieved family updated her blog after receiving news contact had been made this afternoon.

"We have just heard from the Australian Search and Rescue. The plane arrived on the scene moments ago," they posted.

"Wild Eyes is upright but her rigging is down. The weather conditions are abating. Radio communication was made and Abby reports that she is fine!

"We don't know much else right now. The French fishing vessel that was diverted to her location will be there in a little over 24 hours. Where they will take her or how long it will take we don't know."

Abby had activated two emergency beacons early this morning, barely minutes after telling her parents about fierce weather conditions off Australia's west coast.

Abby is attempting to sail solo around the world and had passed the halfway mark earlier in the week. 

She hopes to beat Australian Jessica Watson to become the youngest to sail around the world alone.

Watson, then 16, claimed the record on May 15 after completing a 23,000-mile (about 38,000km) circumnavigation in 210 days.

The goal eluded Sunderland when she was forced to pull into port at Cape Town for boat repairs in April.

"It would be foolish and irresponsible for me to keep going with my equipment not working well," she wrote on her blog at the time.

"I gave it my best shot and made it almost half way around the world. I will definitely keep going, and whether or not I will make any more stops after this I don't know yet."

Controversial solo sail

Prominent Los Angeles Times sports columnist TJ Simers accused Sunderland's parents of "child abuse" for allowing their daughter to go ahead with her voyage.

"Why is any 16-year-old allowed to place herself in harm's way? Why would any parent allow such a thing?"

He described her mission as "outrageous, ridiculous, incomprehensible insanity".

However, in a recent interview with ABC, the Sunderlands defended their encouragement of their children's sailing exploits.

"Could there be a tragedy?'' Marianne Sunderland asked.

"Yeah, there could be. But there could be a tragedy on the way home tonight, you know, or driving with her friends in a car at 16. You minimise the risks."

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  • Cate of Melb Posted at 10:07 PM June 11, 2010

    No problem with this at all. I'm proud we footed the bill. Would appreciate it if it was my daughter. We supported Jess - the risk is the same, and I'm happy that she was prepared to take it. Not in agreement with a 16year old doing this, but happy to admit given another pair of shoes to walk in I may feel differently.

  • Mick S'Onnell Posted at 9:52 PM June 11, 2010

    Honestly there's more important issues than a 16 year old risking her life circumnavigating the globe. Her fault. Her parents fault. Lets move onto more serious matters....

  • vik of sydney Posted at 9:47 PM June 11, 2010

    Yea you can have my tax money for that and any other sensible upcoming missions like this

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