Teen sailor located after EPIRB activated

Teenage sailor Abby Sunderland, 16, has been located in the Indian Ocean, near to the Kerguelen Islands, after activating her EPIRB yesterday. She was part-way through an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world.

Abby had reported 60-knot winds and was knocked down repeatedly in her Open 40, Wild Eyes, before her parents, in California, lost contact with her. Australian SAR teams located the yacht, which was dismasted, from a chartered Qantas passenger jet, and a French fishing boat has been diverted to her position.

On her blog Abby’s parents described what happened: ‘We were helping her troubleshoot her engine that she was trying to start to charge her systems. Satellite phone reception was patchy. She was able to get the water out of the engine and start her up.

‘We were waiting to hear back from her when American Search & Rescue authorities called to report having received a signal from her emergency beacon (EPIRB). We initially thought that the signal was sent automatically from her water-activated EPIRB and that it had been activated during one of her knockdowns.

‘As we pulled the paperwork from her EPIRB registration, we learned that the signal had come from her manually activated EPIRB.

‘We were referred to Australian Search & Rescue and while we were on the phone with them another signal came in from her handheld PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). Her water-activated EPIRB has not been activated so we are hopeful that the boat is still upright.’

The fishing boat is around 24 hours away. ‘Where they will take her or how long it will take we don’t know’, her team said.