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Search for Abby Sunderland launched after teen sailor loses contact with family amid storm

June 10, 2010 | 11:55 am

Abby Sunderland in Cape Town, South Africa, where she had 
stopped for repairs to her vessel, Wild Eyes.

Searchers are trying to find teen sailor Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old from Thousand Oaks who sailed into a storm in the Southern Indian Ocean and lost contact with her family.

Sunderland apparently signaled emergency beacon locating devices on Thursday after losing contact over satellite phone with her family.

Sunderland had set sail on her 40-foot, orange-and-yellow racing yacht, named “Wild Eyes,” in January. The timing of her departure was criticized by some sailors because it would have brought her to the middle of the Indian Ocean at the onset of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter storm season. This was considered the most challenging part of her journey.

In April, Sunderland sailed around Cape Horn between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Sunderland’s latest entry on her blog Wednesday described hitting rough weather and winds at 45 knots. “Wild Eyes was great through everything, but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do,” she wrote.

Her parents have said in news reports that they had persuaded Abby to get to the nearest port in the event that dangerous conditions arose. 

"Everything seemed to be under control," Abby's father, Laurence Sunderland, told outdoor sports blogger Pete Thomas. "But then our call dropped, and an hour later the Coast Guard called."

Sunderland, whose older brother, Zac, sailed solo around the world in 13 months while making several stops, left Marina del Rey on Jan. 23.

-- My-Thuan Tran in Los Angeles, Catherine Saillant in Thousand Oaks

Photo: Abby Sunderland in Cape Town, South Africa, where she had stopped for repairs to her vessel, Wild Eyes. Credit: Jeff Ayliffe

More coverage: The Times' Outpost blog.

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