It was pitch-black out and white water was crashing over the boat. The wintry wind screamed across the deck, and I could tell it was now holding up near fifty knots. Imagine standing on the roof of a car that’s driving down the freeway. That’s how hard it was blowing.
At that moment, a huge gust hit the mainsail like a train. The boat heeled over to port as if a giant hand had smacked her down, and I tumbled over the top of the mainsail toward the water...
On 23 January 2010, sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland set sail from Marina del Rey, California, in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop, and unassisted around the world. Immediately, her trip sparked controversy. What was a girl her age doing undertaking such a voyage? What were her parents thinking?
Abby’s critics predicted she’d make it a few weeks at most. But sailing south, she proved them wrong, and became the youngest person to solo around Cape Horn, the “Mount Everest of sailing.” Crossing the Southern and Atlantic oceans, she battled vicious storms and equipment breakdowns—making one critical repair literally with a nail file and some string. Abby bested the wicked waters at the southern tip of Africa then entered the Indian Ocean—all twenty-seven million square miles of it.
Even less than a hundred years ago, having your boat become disabled in the middle of the Indian’s immense rolling reaches was as good as a death sentence. The odds are better now, but not much. It was here that Abby Sunderland encountered the violent storms that would test her mettle and her will to survive—and change her life forever.
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