Teen Sailor Sunderland Found Safe at Sea

By: From CBS News
By: From CBS News

INDIAN OCEAN -- Rough weather is delaying the rescue of a 16-year-old California girl adrift in her damaged yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Australian search rescue teams had spotted Abby Sunderland's vessel drifting in the frigid, rough Indian Ocean, her sailboat damaged by 30-foot waves that prompted her to set off a distress signal.

Jeff Casher, an adviser to Sunderland's solo sailing attempt, said Friday that a French fishing boat will arrive later than the estimated time of 1:00 Kansas time Saturday. He was not sure when the boat would arrive.

Her boat's mast was broken - ruining satellite phone reception - and was dragging with the sail in the ocean, said search coordinator Mick Kinley, acting chief of the Australia Maritime Safety Authority that chartered a commercial jet for the search.

But the keel was intact, the yacht was not taking on water, and Sunderland was equipped for the conditions, he said.

"The aircraft (crew) spoke to her. They told her help was on the way and she sounds like she's in good health," Kinley told reporters in Canberra.

"She's going to hang in there until a vessel can get to her," probably on Saturday, he said.

A lifelong sailor, Sunderland had begun her journey trying to be the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop around the world and continued her trip after mechanical failures dashed that dream.

She told searchers Friday that she was doing fine with a space heater and at least two weeks' worth of food, said family spokesman William Bennett. Support team member Jeff Casher said the boat had gotten knocked on its side several times.

Abby's father, Laurence Sunderland, thanked the Australian rescuers' quick response in sending out a search plane.

He told The Associated Press by telephone Friday that a fishing boat en route to his daughter's coordinates should arrive on Saturday. The seas in the area are still choppy, but calmer than before. "It's all looking very promising," he said.

Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" Friday, he also defended he and his wife's decision to let their daughter embark on the dangerous voyage.

"How she's handled the situation she's in right now is another reason that you can be rest assured that she's more than qualified to survive and succeed out there," Sunderland said.

Abby's brother, Zac, himself a veteran of a solo sail around the world at age 17, said he told his sister to be prepared for storms and other problems. But he said it's in her nature to handle those calmly.

"I think Abby is quite a conqueror, quite level-headed," her brother said Friday.

But renowned Australian round-the-world sailor Ian Kiernan said Abby should not have been in the southern Indian Ocean during the current southern hemisphere winter.

"Abby would be going through a very difficult time with mountainous seas and essentially hurricane-force winds," Kiernan told Sky News television.

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