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Abby Sunderland's parents defend letting her sail solo; rescue could come Saturday

June 11, 2010 | 11:53 am


The parents of Abby Sunderland defended their decision to allow the Thousand Oaks teen to sail by herself around the world, saying their daughter was prepared.

Her parents, speaking on morning TV news programs, said that Abby's journey was no more dangerous than other activities that teenagers do and that she proved to them that she was up to the challenge.

"Let's face it, life is dangerous. How many teenagers die in car accident[s]?" Abby Sunderland's father, Laurence Sunderland, told "Good Morning America."

Laurence Sunderland said that critics have never met Abby and that if they did they would realize she was capable of sailing solo for this trip. He said it was a difficult decision to allow Abby to attempt to circumnavigate the globe but that he and his wife agreed to do it after much training.

"This wasn't an easy decision make. It was done very carefully," he said.

Sunderland lost communications with her family Thursday after her vessel was damaged by high seas. They reestablished contact late Thursday, and the family hopes she will be rescued in the next day or so.

A spotter jet over the Indian Ocean late Thursday made contact with 16-year-old Sunderland, who was adrift in rough seas and heavy winds in her quest.

Jeff Casher, Sunderland’s sailing coach and technical advisor, said a fishing boat that is closest to Sunderland should get to her around 11 p.m. PDT. A French naval vessel from Reunion Island is expected to arrive about eight hours later, he said.

Also to be decided is whether her boat will be sunk at its position or towed to dry land, Casher said. The boat's carbon fiber mast was heavily damaged and will cost an estimated $90,000 to replace, he said. 

Under maritime law, rescue boats have a right to recoup the cost of a rescue up to and including possession of the boat, he said.

"It will cost more than the boat is worth to tow it to Reunion Island," he said. "And I don't even know if they’d want a sailing boat."

Neil Stanbury, spokesman for the Western Australia Police, said in an e-mail that a fishing vessel is en route to Abby's boat.

"Our Water Police say another aircraft will return tomorrow afternoon to monitor the arrival of the fishing vessel steaming there now. A great outcome for us in Western Australia [is] that we've been able to assist in locating Abby and hope she has a safe night afloat," Stanbury said.

-- Catherine Saillant in Thousand Oaks and Jessica Garrison in Los Angeles

Photo: Abby Sunderland Website