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Abby Sunderland, 15, moving full speed ahead with plans to sail around the world

September 16, 2009 |  1:33 pm


Abby Sunderland, who will turn 16 in October, has landed Shoe City as a major sponsor and is on course for a mid- to late-November departure for her solo voyage around the world.

She has the full support of her parents and, of course, older brother Zac, who in mid-July, at 17, completed his global odyssey, which lasted 13 months aboard a 36-foot Islander sailboat.

Abby, who has planned a nonstop excursion she hopes to complete in about six months, will travel more luxuriously, aboard a 40-foot Open-class boat outfitted for circumnavigations. She's traveling this week to the Caribbean to conduct sea trials in a boat currently named Ocean Warrior.

That seems an appropriate name for what she has planned: an adventure full of excitement but also possible trouble -- her journey will require negotiating the notorious Cape Horn, among other treacherous passages.

Shoe City seems to be thrilled. "We are proud to be a sponsor of this exciting adventure and look forward to the business benefits we are sure to receive through wide media coverage and great public following that youth sailing has garnered," Leedy Young, Shoe City owner and president, said in a news release.

The Sunderlands are confident other sponsors will come aboard because of the worldwide publicity Zac's campaign generated.

Meanwhile, across the globe, Jessica Watson, 16, of Australia, is proceeding with plans to sail around the world despite a recent collision with a 700-foot cargo freighter during sea trials. Watson expects to leave later this month aboard a 34-foot boat named Ella's Pink Lady.

Yes, her boat is shiny and pink. You've got to admire both girls' spirit.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of Abby Sunderland by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times