I woke this morning to the news of Abby Sunderland. To be honest, in amongst the Jessica fanfare I had forgotten she was out there on her Open 40 trying to beat a record... When I was in Hawaii, I had fanciful dreams of selling Constellation and using the money to charter the boat 'Wild Eyes' which Abby is currently floating around in, for a transatlantic. The broker soon stopped talking to me, and I couldn't figure out why - And then Abby appeared with that very boat! So of course, the web is now awash with commentary on child sailors, irresponsibility etc. In success these 'kids' are heroes, in failure their parents are maniacs and terrible people. There is little point in harking on about this, the plain fact is, there is a sailor stuck down in the southern ocean right now, and my only question has nothing to do with age, boats or parenting: It's simply: Why is she in the southern ocean in winter? After some searching I found her last known position, and mapped it against Tony Bullimore who capsized in a similar area. At least he was down there at the right time of year, 1200nm from where Abby is now:
Australian rescue services always get the task of looking after these waters... In fact, said services have just sent a Qantas Airbus down there to sweep over her. In 1997 when Tony Bullimore was down there as part of a race, he and a French sailor were picked up, the story as follows: "The Royal Australian Navy launched a rescue mission for Bullimore and another capsized competitor, Thierry Dubois. Bullimore was alive and managed to survive in an air pocket in the upside-down boat in pitch darkness, having lost his food supplies - his only food was a bar of chocolate. On January 9, Thierry Dubois was rescued by an Australian S-70B-2 Seahawk helicopter embarked on the frigate HMAS Adelaide. Adelaide then proceeded further south to where the Exide Challenger had been located by a RAAF P-3 Orion. Adelaide dispatched an rigid-hulled inflatable boat to the Exide Challenger where crew members knocked on the hull. Hearing the noise, Bullimore swam out from his boat and was quickly rescued by personnel from Adelaide. HMAS Adelaide then returned both Dubois and Bullimore to Perth."
The estimated cost of this rescue was six million dollars. However, rescue costs are difficult to calculate, and while Webb Chiles might not agree with a pickup, I think she should be at whatever financial cost.
Criticism is so easy from an armchair. She'll be terrified right now, but thankfully the boat she's in is nearly unsinkable... Five watertight bulkheads, a hull loaded with foam designed for the very ocean she is in. I have no idea why she is sailing where she is right now, however this is what she's experiencing:
It's a calculated gamble to sail anywhere, at any time, but we can lessen the potential negative outcome of that risk, by succumbing to natures seasonable characteristics...
It's winter in the southern hemisphere, and even at the best of times, it's the world's most terrifying ocean. Whether you're 16, or 55 years old is irrelevant.