When American teen sailor Abby Sunderland was rescued from the Indian Ocean in 2010, she never thought she’d see her yacht, Wild Eyes, again.
The then 16-year-old Sunderland hoped to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, but was forced to abandon her vessel after stormy seas broke the mast. The Californian was picked up by a French fishing vessel between Madagascar and the western coast of Australia.
More than eight years later, on December 31, 2018, a tuna-spotting plane noticed an overturned yacht off the coast of Kangaroo Island, Australia, according to South Australia Police.
After a police helicopter and two commercial fishing ships were sent to the scene — about 11 miles south of the island to the south-west of the city of Adelaide — the yellow boat, now also coated in barnacles, was identified as Wild Eyes.
Sunderland, now 25, told ABC Australia that her “heart skipped a beat” on hearing that her yacht had been found. “It brought back many memories — good and not so good — but it was neat to see it after so long,” she said.
She launched her world record attempt on January 23, 2010, setting sail from Marina del Rey, California. Her older brother Zac held the record for a few weeks in 2009, then aged 17.
Sunderland ran into mechanical difficulties, requring a stop in Cape Town, South Africa, in May. On June 10, she sent out a distress signal after rough seas snapped her yacht’s mast. “The long and the short of it is, well, one long wave, and one short mast (short meaning two-inch stub),” she wrote on her blog.
She was rescued on June 12 by French fishing vessel Ile de la Reunion, but Wild Eyes was abandoned in the ocean. “She would have to be very lucky to wash up on a beach, and not get smashed on the rocks or something like that,” Sunderland wrote of her yacht. “While I do wish that she would be found and fixed up, its (sic) not all that likely she will be found.”
Sunderland stressed that the outcome of her journey was not down to her age, writing on her blog, “Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.” She continued, “As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?”
Her parents, Marianne and Laurence Sunderland, rejected the criticism they received for allowing their daughter to undertake the trip, saying it “crossed the line of human decency.”
Laurence said his daughter had a “great skill on the ocean,” adding, “She’s a remarkable young lady and has done a remarkable job on Wild Eyes, sailing it over halfway around the world.”