FanDuel - WFBC

June 10, 2010

Record-Seeking Teen Sailor May Be Lost at Sea: Contact has been lost with a 16-year-old girl who had set out to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. Abby Sunderland may be lost at sea after activating an emergency positioning beacon. Sunderland's last location is 400 miles from the nearest ship and even farther from land in the Indian Ocean. "There's two boats headed out to her position, one is an estimated 40 hours, the other is 48," said her brother Zac. "Right now we're trying to figure out if there is any way faster. She's in the middle of nowhere pretty much in the southern Indian Ocean. There's nothing closer."

posted by rcade to other at 05:45 PM - 54 comments

On May 15, Australian 16-year-old Jessica Watson claimed the record after completing a 23,000-mile circumnavigation in 210 days.

posted by Atheist at 06:16 PM on June 10

Hope she is okay.

Not a big fan of the "youngest to...." category, puts too many kids at risk. A 16 year old kid can have just so much experience at handling 30 foot waves, and it seems a bit excessive to allow a daughter (or son) to attempt something like this.

posted by dviking at 06:19 PM on June 10

I hate the "youngest to" category when it's a minor. Parents shouldn't be allowed to consent to it.

posted by rcade at 07:03 PM on June 10

Agreed rcade. Shame on her parents for giving their consent and for what? Some silly little title of youngest to sail around the world. Who cares. Just another example of the kind of narcissism found in reality TV shows. Her parents are right up there with Octo Mom and Balloon Boy's folks.

posted by Shotput at 07:39 PM on June 10

Yeah, I hope she's o.k., too. I like to see bad things happen to irresponsible people, but she's just a kid. The penalty for having stupid parents shouldn't be the end of a life before it even gets started.

posted by tahoemoj at 07:40 PM on June 10

Too right tahoemoj, and I also agree with rcade. To me this is a form of negligence that under many circumstances would be considered criminal.

From my own personal experience, that boat is a tiny object in a very large area of ocean. You can't begin to imagine how hard it will be to find either from the air or the surface.

The nearest help currently available is is a commercial vessel 40 hours away. Unless they get some military assets involved, this may become a tragedy.

posted by irunfromclones at 08:47 PM on June 10

The chase for the youngest solo circumnavigation was always going to end in a tragedy. I'd like to say "I hope it's not this one", but that would just mean that it would be someone else.

posted by etagloh at 09:59 PM on June 10

If you are going to stage an extreme endeavor in the name of vanity that may require massive amounts of rescue resources, I think you should be forced to get the written consent from all those who might be asked or required to respond should things go wrong.

At any point along the projected route.

And be forced to make contingency arrangements regarding payment for those rescue services.

I am bothered that this family has put worldwide resources in a position such that ships and planes have to be urgently deployed to assist this foolhardy expedition with a rescue mission. Did the circumnavigation team ask responders beforehand if they supported being deployed in such a manner should the need arise?

I surely want the family to get their daughter back alive, but I also want them to get a six or seven figure bill for the rescue services that will bring them back to their senses, if they have any. Sometimes money is the only language that idiots understand. Maybe it will make the next team think twice before launching a foolish undertaking.

posted by beaverboard at 10:45 PM on June 10

CNN is reporting that Australian search crews have made contact with missing teen sailor Abby Sunderland. This according to a family spokesperson. I hope the Australian goverment bills the parents for use of the Quantas Airlines A330 Airbus they chartered for the search.

posted by Newbie Walker at 02:59 AM on June 11

I hope the Australian goverment bills the parents for use of the Quantas Airlines A330 Airbus they chartered for the search.

This has been the case since the Volvo Ocean race a decade or so ago, when two sailors went missing. Their search and rescue was billed to the organisers. There's an insurance arrangement available these days, I believe.

posted by owlhouse at 03:21 AM on June 11

To me this is a form of negligence that under many circumstances would be considered criminal.

I think child protective services in Thousand Oaks, Calif., should launch an investigation over whether Sunderland's parents are subjecting their child to unacceptable danger in pursuit of fame.

If it weren't for the media attention, what would Sunderland have gained here? She'd have the memory of sailing around the world alone and personal pride in her accomplishment. That's great, I guess. But wouldn't the memory of sailing the globe with her family be a better memory? This seems like an excessive love of an entirely arbitrary achievement.

posted by rcade at 08:55 AM on June 11

Sometimes money is the only language that idiots understand.

To further your argument, here's Abby16.Com, the official site for licensed gear sold by the family. "Abby16 is Abby Sunderland's official line of clothing and footwear. The Abby16 sailboat logo represents her daring spirit of endurance and bravery. Each logo is painstakingly hand-painted onto a classic selection of shoes and apparel from name brands such Vans, Converse, Bearpaw and Flojos. Show your support for Abby and her world wide journey with an Abby16 t-shirt, shoes or sandals."

This whole thing was about money.

posted by rcade at 09:01 AM on June 11

I bought my wife the entire Abby16 lingerie line in pink because that's how I roll.

posted by smithnyiu at 11:00 AM on June 11

First of all I would like to say I raced many times out of the Marina Del Rey Yacht Club and am very familiar with ocean racing and sailing as well as the origin point for this circumnavigation.

Abby's boat was disabled by severe weather. She has more sailing experience than 99% of the adult sailors out there. Any off shore sailing has an element of danger and there is no way to gain foul weather experience other than trial by fire. The situation she finds herself in now is in no way related to her age as any solo sailor of any age would be in the same situation. The fact that she is doing exactly what she should be doing and is well equipped is a testament to the fact that she is extremely qualified to undertake this adventure. The argument that she should be held liable for costs of her rescue, is one that can be made regarding any adventurer, moutain climber, sailor, camper, hiker etc of any age. As it stands, search and rescue resources are available all over the world and are in place for just such a circumstance. None of this however is in anyway related to age it is just a discussion as to whether or not public resources should be utilized for the rescue of people performing non essential but risky endeavors, or if those people should be responsible for reimbursing the provider of emergency services.

IMO she has sailed solo more that halfway around the world and is now performing expertly in 60 knot winds and 30 foot seas with a disabled boat only proves just how capable she is. Regardless of her age this situation is one that happens on the high seas and the proof of a sailor is how they handle it not how old they are.

I understand the argument as it pertains to the age of consent but frankly 18 years old is old enough to be sent to war. Since many 18 year olds are incredibly immature and many 16 year olds are mature beyond their years I hardly believe there is a sharp line of demarcation within a 24 month period. I would rather go to sea with Abby Sunderland than most of the sailors I know and I am 55 years old.

Certainly Tiger Woods performed on a golf course better than adults when he was just 10, and an argument could made be that his father may have been abusive overbearing which as it has proven out, may have caused him to have some serious personal issues. Do we really want government making judgement calls about what is right for our children? Certainly there are clearly people and situations that call for government intervention or child protective services intervention, but I just don't believe this girl or the kid that just climbed Mt. Everest are in that category.

One last point to someone who said it was all about the money. Sailing an open forty around the world is very expensive similar to racing a car a LeMans, the website, the solicitation of sponsors etc were all about raising the funds to fulfill the dream not about obtaining wealth. Besides what would be wrong if one of the best sportsman in the world be allowed to make a living. If Tiger Woods can make a billion dollars playing golf and advertising, why shouldn't a remarkable sailor be allowed to try to eek out a living doing what they love?

posted by Atheist at 11:31 AM on June 11

This whole thing was about money

I question that being the reason for Abby's pursuit also.

She's 16, belongs to a Yacht Club, already has a boat worth more money than my house - she's obviously from a financially secure family to begin with. I doubt hawking T-Shirts and Vans at a $10 markup on her website will contribute significantly to her or her parents' bottom line.

posted by cixelsyd at 01:01 PM on June 11

Do we really want government making judgement calls about what is right for our children?

Really? The government as boogey man once again?

You may have noticed that the Government makes judgement calls about our kids all the time. Kids have to go to school. They can't smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. They can't drive until they're 16 or 17 (Depending on your jurisdiction). Which of these do you have a problem with?

And as you seemed to figure out as you were writing your post, using Tiger Woods as a role model for how to raise your kid may not be the best idea.

I am glad she's OK but I would definitely like to see the parents stuck with the bill for the rescue.

posted by cjets at 01:05 PM on June 11

She's OK

Thank you Atheist for saying it so well. I'm guessing both Abby and her parents have a lot better idea of what she is capable of than the millions of people who have formed an opinion. Yes, it's dangerous, so is stepping outside your door.

posted by kokaku at 01:15 PM on June 11

Do we really want government making judgement calls about what is right for our children?

Yes. When parents expose their children to reckless situations, child welfare authorities should get involved.

I doubt hawking T-Shirts and Vans at a $10 markup on her website will contribute significantly to her or her parents' bottom line.

Paris Hilton was filthy rich when she began fame seeking. I don't think we should underestimate what some people will do for attention and money. Even if they don't need the money for those products, the fact they're selling them shows that marketing their daughter was on their mind.

I'm guessing both Abby and her parents have a lot better idea of what she is capable of than the millions of people who have formed an opinion.

Why? Do you think all parents are good ones? The Balloon Boy's dad put his family through that ridiculous charade, and leaned on the kid to lie on national TV, all to secure a reality TV deal. The kid was so stressed out about it he vomited on live television.

posted by rcade at 01:16 PM on June 11

Yes, it's dangerous, so is stepping outside your door.

That's ridiculously glib. Under that logic, no risk is ever foolish. We're talking about a minor sailing around the globe solo through some of the roughest oceans in the world. What percentage of adult sailors do you think are capable of doing that?

posted by rcade at 01:17 PM on June 11

Rcade, your idea of acceptable risk seems to be quite different than mine. Why should you, or a government, get to decide what I can allow my kids (hypothetical) to be allowed to do.

posted by tron7 at 03:31 PM on June 11

Why should you, or a government, get to decide what I can allow my kids (hypothetical) to be allowed to do.

Because the police power is inherent in the government. The function of government is to maintain the general health, safety, and welfare of its constituents. Should you be allowed to let your six year old smoke and drink? Let a fourteen year old daughter prostitute herself? How about letting your twin sons knife fight? Or is there a line somewhere where the government may step in?

Personally, I don't think this girl's parents are criminals; I think they made a morally questionable decision and it had the potential to cost their daughter her life. However, to argue that the government has no place in telling parents what they can allow their children to do is illogical.

posted by tahoemoj at 04:06 PM on June 11

rcade - I seriously doubt you know anything about sailing let alone circumnavigating the globe solo on a sailboat. This is an endeavor that takes years of preparation and the act itself means you will be scared at times, cold at times, and totally alone on a small boat for 200 + days on the high seas. The family is not of substantial means but rather middle class. Their son worked and raised money to achieve his goal on a very modest Islander 36 that he and his father a boat wright prepared themselves. Abby's boat was much more hi tech and hi dollar, but I believe due partially to the success of her brother, she was able to get sponsorship money and raise enough for the trip and equipment. Both of these kids worked incredibly hard to get into a position to do this and assuredly will be successful in their lives as they have proven what they can accomplish with the desire they have. They have obviously instilled character, disipline, and a work ethic in their children that few others can match. Claiming they are negligent as parents couldn't be farther from the truth.

Insinuating they are doing what they did for fame or attention by comparing them to Paris Hilton is totally ridiculous. I am sure many people become brain surgeons for financial reward or recognition or status or whatever, as who knows what is at the root of motivation for some people. I can assure you that there are far easier ways to achieve recognition and fame. This feat could not even be attempted by a person that did not have an unrelenting desire and love for the ocean and sailing. Insinuating otherwise is just complete ignorance of the situation.

There are people that have died sailing between Los Angeles and Catalina Island 30 miles away. It happened to a 57 year old sailor who had already completed a solo to Hawaii from LA, two weeks ago. You can learn how to sail a boat but nobody deliberately sails in 30 foot seas and 60 knot winds. This is something that may never happen to a sailor who has been sailing for 50 years and something that can happen to a sailor on his first off shore voyage. If you could predict it you would avoid it. When a sailor survives conditions like this, it just validates their competency level. No matter how many sailing trips you take every trip is a learning experience. Age is basically irrelevant and training, skill and experience are everything.

While other parents are living vicariously through their children pushing them to hit home runs or become star football players, as they sit in the stands sharing the attention, we have heard very little from these parents. They have supported both their children as they pursue their dreams and remained in the background. They even have their son Zack who accomplished the task, speak for the family to the press in this time of concern over their daughter. I could not help but notice how calm and collected the kid was talking about his sisters predicament, but then remaining calm and collected in the face of potential disaster is a very essential trait to accomplish what he has.

posted by Atheist at 04:13 PM on June 11

I'm guessing both Abby and her parents have a lot better idea of what she is capable of than the millions of people who have formed an opinion.

Just promise us -- Cap'n Atheist can join in too -- that you'll say the same about the 16-year-old who eventually and inevitably dies doing it. Or the 15-year-old. Or the 14-year-old. Do you get it now?

Insinuating they are doing what they did for fame or attention by comparing them to Paris Hilton is totally ridiculous.

They did it for fame and attention. The WSSRC doesn't even ratify voyages any more for under-18s, but you're still seeing teenagers -- the most recent being Jessica Watson -- chasing a "record" that is maintained tacitly by the press via their publicity agents. It's not long ago since the Dutch state intervened to keep Laura Dekker from heading off; she'll now likely depart on her voyage in September, aged 15, and she might be the one who dies en route. But if not her, it'll be someone else.

None of this however is in anyway related to age it is just a discussion as to whether or not public resources should be utilized for the rescue of people performing non essential but risky endeavors, or if those people should be responsible for reimbursing the provider of emergency services.

That's bullshit. The motivation here is to be cited as the 'youngest X' or the 'first Y', which is clearly an invitation to recklessness. I said the same about the parents whose 13-year-old son just climbed Everest -- the parents of some 11-year-old are probably in training right now -- I'll say it about the grown adult who attempts to be the first to swim the English Channel in a suit of armour.

posted by etagloh at 05:02 PM on June 11

When a sailor survives conditions like this, it just validates their competency level. No matter how many sailing trips you take every trip is a learning experience. Age is basically irrelevant and training, skill and experience are everything.

Or their luck level. Skill and experience might turn out to mean nothing, if the equipment fails, right?

For my part, the parents' and kid's motivation is completely irrelevant. I don't really care why they decided to put her in harm's way--which is what every sea voyage really is. For love of money or ocean or whatever: who cares?

They have obviously instilled character, disipline, and a work ethic in their children that few others can match.

Nobody's arguing with that. Because it's not relevant. The question is whether anyone here is demonstrating good judgement. Putting your kid on a boat and waving goodbye as they disappear over the horizon is more than just prima facie evidence of bad judgement.

Claiming they are negligent as parents couldn't be farther from the truth.

No--claiming they're responsible as parents is a lot farther. One of my most important jobs as a parent is to provide for my boys' growth and development, which is eminently possible without risking their lives. And impossible if they're dead.

posted by Uncle Toby at 05:11 PM on June 11

She has more sailing experience than 99% of the adult sailors out there.

And yet, she's 16. Which means when things go pear-shaped, she's less equipped to deal with it. But yes, let us gladly sacrifice rich white kids at the altar of freedom from tyranny. I'm all for it. Just tell me where to show up with the knives.

posted by yerfatma at 05:22 PM on June 11

As a more serious response, when I was 17, my Dad took me to college. Here was a 47 year-old man, who'd seen whatever horrors he saw in war, never noticed he'd broken an ankle in Basic Training and cried a total of one times in my life and he said, "Take care of yourself Tommy" and started to tear up. I smiled at him, turned away and walked off to my dorm with tears streaming down my face. In spite of the fact he's never been the world's most sensitive man and the fact I was built like a brick shithouse and bright as a binary star, he was scared to let me go to college by myself.

Who the fuck cuts their kid loose in a boat and says, "See you in 6 months"? Spare me the tales of how the kid lives to sail. She lives to do what you taught her to do. And no 16 year-old is going to whither and die if they don't get to circumnavigate the globe. Drop 'em off at the mall and let them go Magellan from Sbarro to Cinnabon.

posted by yerfatma at 05:33 PM on June 11

Why should you, or a government, get to decide what I can allow my kids (hypothetical) to be allowed to do.

Governments already have the power to step in and protect the welfare of children. Every state in the U.S. has a child protective agency. Parents do not have the unfettered right to decide what their kids can and cannot do. When they get ridiculous -- such as pursuing a pointless and arbitrary achievement that puts their child on open seas 48 hours from any rescuer -- the state can intervene.

I seriously doubt you know anything about sailing let alone circumnavigating the globe solo on a sailboat.

No shit, sherlock. The people who do know something about it, the World Speed Sailing Racing Council (WSSRC), have completely washed their hands of all "youngest" attempts. Why do you think they did that?

posted by rcade at 06:18 PM on June 11

Why regulating against taking certain risks seems like the antitheses of the human spirit.

No shit, sherlock. The people who do know something about it, the World Speed Sailing Racing Council (WSSRC), have completely washed their hands of all "youngest" attempts. Why do you think they did that?

Liability. I think it would be wrong to confuse that with principle.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:47 PM on June 11

. When they get ridiculous -- such as pursuing a pointless and arbitrary achievement that puts their child on open seas 48 hours from any rescuer -- the state can intervene.

No, you just want them to.

Drop 'em off at the mall and let them go Magellan from Sbarro to Cinnabon.

I think we have plenty of parents who already do that.

Should you be allowed to let your six year old smoke and drink?

Only at a Phillies game.

Let a fourteen year old daughter prostitute herself?

No.

How about letting your twin sons knife fight?

Are they identical?

posted by tselson at 10:22 PM on June 11

Are they identical?

Not for long

posted by tahoemoj at 11:18 PM on June 11

She has more sailing experience than 99% of the adult sailors out there.

Debatable, but not really the point. I have more sailing experience than 99% of the sailors out there, but I'd be risking my life to attempt a voyage like this. I'm in my 50's, my youngest kid is almost to adulthood, and if I were to perish enroute it would be sad, but it would be my choice to do so. We all know that 16 year olds take risks that they shouldn't due to the false assumption of immortality. It is the job of a parent to step in and be the voice of common sense. I wouldn't let my 16 year old daughter drive from Dallas to Texarkana unsupervised, and I sure as hell wouldn't let her set off on what I knew to be an extremely dangerous around-the-world trip./

Why subject a kid ( a very mature, well trained sailor, but still a kid) to the the dangers of this type of voyage? As I said in one of the first posts on this thread...I'm not a fan of "the youngest to" category, as there will always be the next set of parents willing to allow their kid to give it a shot. Not all of those kids are coming back.

posted by dviking at 11:29 PM on June 11

No, you just want them to.

I don't see the distinction you're making. They live in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The state of California can start an investigation in response to this, bringing Abby and her parents in to decide whether this is endangerment of a child.

From a news report:

Her parents, speaking on morning TV news programs, said that Abby's journey was no more dangerous than other activities that teenagers do and that she proved to them that she was up to the challenge. "Let's face it, life is dangerous. How many teenagers die in car accident[s]?" Abby Sunderland's father, Laurence Sunderland, told Good Morning America.
If this isn't a misquote and her dad genuinely thinks her trip is no more dangerous than other teen activities, he's a complete idiot and it calls the rest of his judgment into question.

posted by rcade at 08:42 AM on June 12

I am really glad rcade doesn't get to make decisions like this for me and my family.

Rcade, you believe sailing around the world is a "pointless and arbitrary achievement". That is your OPINION.

It really riles me up when people want to legislate their opinions on me. Grrrrrrrr.......

posted by DudeDykstra at 10:50 AM on June 12

This isn't me making a decision for you. It's the state stepping in to ensure that parents are actually living up to their responsibility as parents. The same way they did after the Balloon Boy hoax with Richard Heene, a dad who will do anything to be famous.

Sunderland said before the trip her parents "tried to scare me out of it." She left later than many advised on Jan. 23, putting her in the southern hemisphere on open ocean during storm season. So at some point her parents agreed with me that it was a bad idea, and the trouble she got into would appear to affirm that judgment.

Rcade, you believe sailing around the world is a "pointless and arbitrary achievement".

No, I believe being the youngest to do it is a pointless and arbitrary achievement. The record isn't even being kept any more. The media should stop covering this stuff.

When Sunderland becomes an adult, if she wants to sail solo around the world I have absolutely no problem with it.

posted by rcade at 12:07 PM on June 12

My last comment was a bit hurried. I'm fine with there being a point in which the government intervenes but I'd like it to be in much more dangerous or harmful situations than this, where we have a consensus or near consensus opinion that what is being done is endangerment. Say, gladiatorial knife fighting twins. I'd really just like the line moved back and parents given more latitude (more longitude in this instance) to decide what is right for their children. I'd rather not legislate the grey areas of acceptable risk.

posted by tron7 at 12:42 PM on June 12

Here's a quote from Jon Sayer, the builder of Abby's boat: "She wasn't physically or mentally strong enough to handle a 40-foot boat in those winter storm conditions."

Another from Ian Kiernan, a yachtsman who has completed a round-the-world trip himself: "I don't know what she's doing in the southern Indian Ocean in the middle of the winter. We need adventurers but adventurers who do foolhardy things and put their rescuers at risk, it should not be allowed."

And here's the rationalization of Abby's dad: "We don't live inside a box -- we do things. Some people are accountants, some people are librarians, our family is full of adventurers. I wouldn't want to try to turn them into librarians."

Their sense of adventure has cost Australian taxpayers an estimated $200,000 for the rescue effort.

posted by rcade at 12:43 PM on June 12

I had previously been on the side that was against the parents being allowed to let a 16 year old embark on such a dangerous voyage, however, after reading the following in today's Dallas Morning News, I'm now all for it.

The girl's father Laurence Sunderland was being quoted: "We don't make any decisions just based on a feeling, or even on sound knowledge. We also pray about it. The conviction of prayer and answer to prayer has led to where we are with Abigail's campaign"

So, if God's all for it, who am I to judge their actions?

posted by dviking at 12:59 PM on June 12

I've been reading this thread and refraining from comment until I had gained some idea of the thrust of the argument. I think I can now contribute something as a parent, but not as a sports fan. My son is now 21. During his youth, we (my wife and I) would try to assess the risk of those things he wanted to do, his ability to manage that risk, and whatever mitigating factors there might be (chaperons, adult leadership, etc.). Whenever we felt that the learning experience equaled the risk, he was allowed to go. If not, we would try to explain our reasoning. We weren't always correct, but our son survived and learned to judge risks and rewards for himself. As he grew older and began driving, the worry factor went up, but we had to trust him and the fact that he had so far shown good judgment. He's 21 now, but we still worry. He's down at Bonnaroo this weekend, and of course we are biting fingernails. Had I been able to, would I have forbidden him to make the trip? Not at all. He is with 2 level-headed friends, is a competent driver, is not dumb, and has learned to recognize most potentially hazardous situations.

We have looked at the experiences of parents who have allowed their children to place themselves in danger and those of parents who have sheltered their children excessively. A few of those children who were allowed into danger were injured, some seriously, but in no case were those kids in what could be termed exceptional circumstances. The kids who were sheltered seemed to have come out on the short end of it. Two of our friends who constantly looked over the shoulders of their kids have had their kids wind up in serious trouble. One totaled a car, injuring 2 of her friends but not herself, and another is facing jail time for dealing drugs while he was away for his first year at college. To paraphrase the words of an old TV commercial, "What's a parent to do?"

I think the key is moderation. In the case of the Sunderlands, it appears that they did not correctly evaluate the risks. When Abby's departure was delayed, placing her in a situation where foul weather was probable, the whole thing should have been called off. Sayer, the boat maker, has been quoted as saying that he thought she was not physically competent to handle a 40-footer alone (per rcade, above). Did he tell her parents? Did he have any obligation to do so? Regardless, the Sunderlands should have shown a bit more sense than to listen to the pleading of a teenager. The prevailing sense among psychologists, or whoever writes about such things, is that judgment is the last part of a child's mental capacity to develop. Having watched a teenager grow up, I think I can agree with that.

On edit, looking at dviking's comment, my studies in religion have taught me one thing about prayer. God will answer every prayer, but the answer is not always the one you want to hear. If you want a theological basis to Abby's experience, try this. God has heard the prayers and is saying to the Sunderlands, "Don't push it too far."

posted by Howard_T at 04:14 PM on June 12

Well thought out post Howard_T.

I'm not for "helicopter parenting" either, the answer clearly being in the middle somewhere.

posted by dviking at 04:45 PM on June 12

I'd like to expand on what dviking said above:

Debatable, but not really the point. I have more sailing experience than 99% of the sailors out there, but I'd be risking my life to attempt a voyage like this. I'm in my 50's, my youngest kid is almost to adulthood, and if I were to perish enroute it would be sad, but it would be my choice to do so. We all know that 16 year olds take risks that they shouldn't due to the false assumption of immortality. It is the job of a parent to step in and be the voice of common sense. I wouldn't let my 16 year old daughter drive from Dallas to Texarkana unsupervised, and I sure as hell wouldn't let her set off on what I knew to be an extremely dangerous around-the-world trip./

A lot of the arguments in this thread, and in other discussions on this and related endeavors, has focused on whether someone of that age has the skills and judgment that are required for such an undertaking. We've heard yet again that 99% of adults don't have these skills, that skill has nothing to do with age, and that it's possible to die while sitting on the couch. On the flip side, it has been pointed out that skill develops over time, that the development of mature judgment is partly a physiological matter that doesn't happen with even the most precocious teenager, and that the absence of risk-free activities doesn't mean that all risks are equal (and therefore equally negligible).

These arguments can go back and forth forever, and they're interesting enough, I suppose...but they really are beside the point. The point is not whether Abby Sunderland was at greater or lesser risk on a solo circumnavigation than an adult sailor. Greater or lesser, the risk -- a risk of dying -- was still significant, and the point is simply that she is too young to die.

As etagloh pointed out, that's what's wrong with the various "youngest person to " contests -- and they are contests, don't kid yourself about that. Abby Sunderland had some bad luck, and then she had some good luck, which is why she's alive today. If kids keep trying to set a new solo circumnavigation record, one of them will be a little bit less lucky, and then you'll have a dead kid. And whatever else we will be able to say about this kid when (not if) it happens, we will be able to say this: he/she was too young to die.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:11 PM on June 12

Greater or lesser, the risk -- a risk of dying -- was still significant, and the point is simply that she is too young to die.

At what point does someone cease to be to young to die?

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:18 PM on June 12

How old are you now? One day less than that.

posted by yerfatma at 05:24 PM on June 12

At what point does someone cease to be to young to die?

It's really hard to answer this question truthfully and not sound really condescending. It's kind of like that famous Potter Stewart quote, "I know it when I see it." Being old enough to die (which is not the same thing as being ready to die, but that's a different discussion) means that you're old enough to have lived -- and I don't mean "lived" in the Pepsi-commercial sense implied in the tired, overused phrase "living life to its fullest", which people generally use when they mean "doing a lot of stuff". Living is not a matter of checking items off a checklist. I'm sure that Abby Sunderland has done a lot of stuff. I'm also sure that she hasn't lived enough to be old enough to die.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:02 PM on June 12

The sad fate of Jessica Dubroff can perhaps stand as a cautionary example here; it took place in the context of a succession of media-hyped "young flyers" including Vicki Van Meter, leading to the cross-US flight "record" being in the hands of an eight-year-old boy. Which meant, of course, that there needed to be a seven-year-old in the plane to challenge it. The NTSB determined that an "overly ambitious itinerary", and "self-induced pressures from media attention" contributed to the crash that killed Dubroff, her father and the flight instructor at the controls.

I self-censored an earlier comment that since Abby Sunderland's going to be too old to claim a bogus title, her parents would need to get busy breeding another potential junior circumnavigator. Well, it turns out her mother is expecting a baby any time now. More charitably, I will say that if Abby's a talented sailor, the world of competitive yachting awaits her, and I wish her every success. As an adult.

posted by etagloh at 07:14 PM on June 12

I think her trip stopped being about setting a record the minute she had to stop for repairs early on in the voyage. She elected to continue the voyage for personal reasons when no record was even part of it.

Just thought I would mention that as I never really thought of the record as being the most important part of the voyage. Many sailors dream of the adventure of sailing around the world.

After much thought I do agree with the folks that seem to feel the worlds youngest record is a little silly. I do feel sailing around the world is something many sailors want to do and it is the kind of thing that can only be done when you feel you are ready and the opportunity arises. Keeping in mind it does take money, skill, preparation and maybe most importantly time. I think that is why typically people do when they are young before work, family etc get in the way or they do it after they retire when family and job restraints are less of a factor. Sailing for a year requires a life that can be put on hold while having the resources to do it.

posted by Atheist at 09:49 PM on June 12

Her trip was still about setting the record for being the youngest to sail around the globe, it just was no longer a "non-stop" voyage.

At what point does someone cease to be to young to die? While I really like yerfatma's answer to that question, the real question is: When does someone cease to be too young to make life threatening choices on their own. Sadly, we lose servicemen and women that are too young to die, however, they were old enough to make the decision to serve. I just think Abby Sunderland was too young to make a clear decision.

posted by dviking at 12:11 AM on June 13

Atheist: thanks for that, and apologies for earlier snark. From a technological perspective, single-handed long-distance yachting is very different from when Knox-Johnston circumnavigated with a pub barometer, which means that the opportunity to cross oceans or go around the world is open to more sailors at a younger age. What doesn't change, though, is the sea, and as you rightly noted, it can claim the most experienced.

I can understand some of the underlying thinking in a non-cynical way: most long-distance voyages need sponsorship, and most sponsors need a hook. Rather than the "world's youngest", I'd gladly support something like a young person's single-handed stage race with appropriate support -- as long as the racing element was loose enough to avoid encouraging questionable decisions.

posted by etagloh at 12:38 AM on June 13

I don't see the distinction you're making.

Distinction? You stated this as though it was a fact:

When they get ridiculous -- such as pursuing a pointless and arbitrary achievement that puts their child on open seas 48 hours from any rescuer -- the state can intervene.

I guess the only distinction is which state? Or which government? If you are talking about the Netherlands, you are correct. I assumed you were talking about the U.S. government. In which case, the "state," can't intervene.

Which "state" are you referring to that can intervene when parents get ridiculous?

posted by tselson at 11:56 PM on June 13

The state of California, where they live, as I've already said several times in this discussion.

posted by rcade at 10:34 AM on June 14

Well I believe I have to eat some crow on this one as I just learned the Sunderlands have signed a deal for a reality show based on their family. Now I am bummed.

I stand behind what I said about their sailing abilities and Abby's qualifications, and what I feel was her right to make the voyage, but it seems the family was not a purely motivated as I had earlier believed. They have signed up for a reality show about the family and their adventurous lifestyle. It seems the publicity has brought about an offer they couldn't refuse.

Anyway I may have misjudged the family's motivation and I am willing to concede I was wrong about them.

posted by Atheist at 11:58 AM on June 14

The state of California, where they live, as I've already said several times in this discussion.

Several? Maybe if you say it three more times it will be true. I don't get it. Your opinion hasn't been legislated yet. Has it?

In California can they really decide to intervene... When they get ridiculous -- such as pursuing a pointless and arbitrary achievement that puts their child on open seas 48 hours from any rescuer.

You seem to be pretty darn sure they can. I'm not discounting or even necessarily disagreeing with your opinion, I just think you are stating your opinion as fact and that hasn't been decided yet.

And while you're here is it my problem that these \ appear all over my previews? :)

posted by tselson at 11:24 PM on June 14

Your opinion hasn't been legislated yet. Has it?

Do you honesty doubt that the state of California has the authority to investigate this family? Child protective agencies in the U.S. have broad license to do that. They live in California.

As Atheist said, the Sunderland dad inked a reality deal before the voyage. It seems he is broke. He has a pregnant wife and seven kids to support.

posted by rcade at 12:24 AM on June 15

The fathers apparent sleaziness aside with regard to the reality deal, I have taken the liberty to copy a couple of posts from another blog that I felt was relevant and expressed my view of whether or not Abby Sunderland should have been allowed to choose to sail the globe. Keeping in mind that I am believing it was her decision and not one forced or pushed upon her.

"The idea that a 16-year old is not an adult is a relatively recent one. 150 years ago, they could be married, running a farm, running a business, raising a family, apprenticed out to learn a trade, serving on a navy vessel or merchant ship - you name it. One of my grandfathers emigrated from England, alone, at age 15, to make his way in the world. We've created a sub-culture of teens with adult capabilities, but zero expectations and responsibilities. They don't have to "grow up", so they behave like children. Many never grow up."

or this one

"Man..the vitrolic from people gets almost overbearing! There are a lot of people here who suffer from the "crawfish" syndrome. I guess it would be better if she was a alcoholic, drug using nyphomaniac who sat at home and demanded that her parents keep her entertained so she wouldn't be bored. Better yet, she could be one of the morbidly obese whiny kids sitting at their high dollar computers playing WOW or any of the other vastly violent games while twittering/texting their "so called" friends and complaining that there is nothing on cable t.v. worth watching. It's refreshing to see this young woman go after a dream! I think she will go far in this world."

And finally one of my favorites "Most people raise their kids to be sheep. Others raise their kids to be people of vision. I only wish that I had been raised with more vision. Now I also wish that more parents would raise their kids to be people of vision. This young lady has more vision than all of the 535 deadbeats in congress combined."

posted by Atheist at 10:51 AM on June 15

Those replies are weak, Atheist. I don't know what motivated you to copy them. How is it even remotely relevant that 150 years ago a 16-year-old was an adult? Are the only two options here sailing around the world as a minor without adequate experience or being a drug-using nymphomaniac? What does any of this have to do with Congress?

posted by rcade at 05:04 PM on June 17

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