Rescue for teenage round-world sailor

A 16-YEAR-OLD sailor on a lone round-the-world journey was drifting in the frigid southern Indian Ocean last night as rescue boats headed toward her yacht, damaged by 30ft waves that knocked out her communications and prompted her to set off a distress signal.

After a tense 20 hours of silence, a search plane made radio contact with Abby Sunderland yesterday.

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

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But the keel was intact, the yacht was not taking water and Ms 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," Mr Kinley said. "She's going to hang in there until a vessel can get to her," probably today, he said.

A lifelong sailor, Ms Sunderland began her journey trying to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop around the world and continued after mechanical failures dashed that dream.

She told searchers yesterday that she was doing fine, with a space heater and at least two weeks' worth of food, said family spokesman William Bennett.

Abby's father, Californian Laurence Sunderland, rejected criticism that it was far too dangerous to allow a 16-year-old to sail around the world by herself. "Sailing and life in general is dangerous. Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn't drive a car?" he said.

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