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Sailor Abby Sunderland's team replies to criticism aimed at Abby and her parents

June 15, 2010 | 11:44 am

Abby Sunderland, right, arrives with Nathalie Deschamps, second right, head of district for the Kerguelen islands, in Port-aux-Francais, Indian Ocean.

Abby Sunderland and her parents, Laurence and Marianne, have become the focus of intense public and media criticism since the 16-year-old sailor ran into trouble in the Indian Ocean on Thursday, when the Thousand Oaks teen activated two emergency locating beacons after her 40-foot sailboat, Wild Eyes, rolled in high seas and lost its mast and satellite communications equipment, initiating a rescue mission from Australia.

To address some of the most common comments received, Team Abby has posted a new item on Abby's blog, which is excerpted below:

We are so thankful once again for all of you who understand and support Abby’s spirit of adventure and for those of you who have the humility to give the respect that Abby and her team of experts deserve. It is impossible to answer every criticism. There are so many who are only hearing of Abby for the first time and who, due to a lack of understanding and knowledge, accept what the media is saying without question or without discerning that they could be wrong or the motives of those involved may not be sincere. We will attempt to comment on several themes of concern:


Can you put a message on your blog informing your readers that the Australian government has not requested any recovery cost for Abby’s search and recovery.

Australia like the US have always responded to requests for help and have provided whatever resources are required. At no stage have we asked for cost recovery. Likewise domestic search and rescue have never requested payment for services. If a person wishes to make a contribution to the costs then that is their call. It is not expected or asked for.

Bottom line is, don’t get sucked in by the media. I would like a clarification on your blog just letting your readers know that the Australian Government has not requested payment nor would they. Let’s not let the media portray the many groups that were involved in Abby’s rescue as a bunch of people motivated and driven by money. This is not the case.

-- Search and Rescue Volunteer Perth.


Laurence and I were approached by Magnetic Entertainment last year before Abby departed to shop a reality TV show based on our family. Abby's trip was already sponsored. Their idea was to do an inspiring show about Zac and Abby’s adventures, what our family was like and what made them as strong and independent as they are. The show was shopped and not sold. All rights were returned to us. There is no reality TV show or documentary in the works and we will not be persuing one. We find it ironic that the media, who are spreading gossip and sensationalizing Abby’s story for profit, have the nerve to criticize us for supposedly doing the same thing -- very ironic.


Abby's trip was being watched and guided daily by Commander’s Weather, a team of meteorologists that have been routing sailboats around the world for 30 years. Their clients include professional sailors such as Steve Fossett, Ellen MacArthur and PUMA Ocean Racing.

From meteorologist Ken Campbell:

We were late crossing the Indian Ocean, but I felt Abby was fully capable. Do we handle sailors crossing the North Atlantic in December? Sure, but they follow our rules and we push them as far S as possible and avoid headwinds. We tried to keep her as far N as possible, but there is such a thing as too far N and the worst situation of all would be headwinds and we did avoid those.

Very few people have ever forecast weather there (the southern Indian Ocean), let alone route sailboats. This storm was not unusual for that location, for that time of year and the strategy was the best there could be for that situation.

You are great, loving and caring parents, with a remarkable daughter ... she is a fine example of the true human spirit! That is what should be celebrated, not criticized. By the way, she is 16, not 8.

The full post can be read here.

Many people probably don't consider that the Sunderlands are a family whose lives revolve around sailing, and they have a far different perspective of it, just as children who grow up around, say, auto racing, bull riding or motocross -- all potentially dangerous endeavors -- might (though, of course, none involves having your child alone in the middle of the ocean). No matter, it sounds as if the Sunderlands are exhausted from the media attacks, but they have to realize that we are, sadly, in a world where sensationalism sells.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Abby Sunderland, right, arrives with Nathalie Deschamps, second right, head of district for the Kerguelen Islands, in Port-aux-Francais. Credit: Loic Bourc'his / Associated Press / Terres Australes et Antarctiques Francaises


And now, a word from Abby Sunderland...

Sailor Abby Sunderland rescued from Indian Ocean

Abby Sunderland vessel photo and flyover update

Sailor Abby Sunderland is alive and seems unharmed

Teenage sailor Abby Sunderland's parents comment on the rescue effort for their daughter

Rescue effort underway for teenage sailor Abby Sunderland

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