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.
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.