"The Lord’s Will?"
Born again Christian Abby Sunderland headed off on Friday in her bid to become the world’s youngest circumnavigator, though she’s got a longer trip than the other teenaged girl currently on the high seas, and will have to push if she’s to finish at a younger age than Watson.
As we’ve sad numerous times, the record itself is inane. After all, midshipmen younger than either girl effectively commanded square riggers ’round the horn 200 years ago. But there’s a mild fascination with these kids that keeps us watching, and in Jessica Watson’s case, she’s a genuinely interesting girl, with a humble style and storytelling skill that’s held out attention, and that of thousands of fans around the world.
But after watching this video of Abby and her family, we’re left wondering if she has the slightest chance to make it. Sure, Reid Stowe proved that even the most retarded sailors can drift around the world eventually, and Abby’s dopey brother Zac made it around in his many-stop voyage on an Islander 36. But Abby’s sailing an Open 40 – not the kind of forgiving ride the others have – with a questionable history, and she has precious few days practicing or qualifying the boat for the kind of heavy weather she is bound to face. And a flat-assed Open 40 is an entirely different beast when running downwind in the Southern Ocean in 60 knots and 10m waves like Jess did the other day. Jess got knocked down a few times and took it all in stride with a wisdom far beyond her years, but an Open 40 like Abby’s is harder to control and far more likely to pitch pole, and does anyone think the inexperienced Abby can handle that? Even more unnerving is her family’s reliance on God and prayer to help them get to the end of this one – not the traditional place that solo sailors look for inspiration, and not someone likely to lay down the storm when she needs it. And we just can’t help but be put off the her comment that her doing this is "The Lord’s will." So if she fails miserably, or worse, is that too the Lord’s will? Puuleeese…
Realistically, if her sat phone and e-mail hold up, Abby should have all the advice she needs from a large group of supporters to make it around the world. And to us, a young girl accomplishing a solo RTW is a net positive for mainstream exposure to our sport and not a bad thing at all. But there’s something creepy about the whole thing, and we don’t know if it’s the bible-thumping, the weird brother-sister dynamic, or Abby’s ridiculous line of commemorative shoes, boots, and shirts. Whatever it is that is making us so uneasy, we hope Abby doesn’t end up doing the one thing guaranteed to get top exposure in the world media…dying. Thread here.