Abandoned yacht discovered after going missing eight years ago

Police have told a Californian solo sailor that the yacht she abandoned after an ill-fated round-the-world attempt in 2010 has been spotted off the Australian coast.

Abby Sunderland said her “heart skipped a beat” when she was informed that an upturned 12-metre (39-foot) hull found drifting 20 kilometres south of Kangaroo Island was her sloop Wild Eyes.

Sunderland was 16 and attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone and unassisted when her yacht capsized and lost its mast in rough seas in the Indian Ocean on 10th June 2010. She was rescued two days later by the French ship Ile de la Reunion, midway between Madagascar and Western Australia.

Sunderland intended to beat her brother’s record – just 12 months earlier he had successfully completed a solo sail, with stops and assistance, aged 17.

In a statement, the now 25-year-old has described when she found out about the boat’s discovery as “very emotional”.

“It brought back memories – good and not so good – but it was neat to see it after so long,” she said. “It looked a little creepy [but] that’s to be expected after so long.”

She said she was curious to see whether any of the video equipment she used to record her voyage was still on board, and hoped that the boat would be retrieved.

“It would be great to try and retrieve the boat but given the costs I don’t think that will happen. I always knew the boat was high quality and very safe so it doesn’t really surprise me that it’s still floating.”

A police spokesman has since confirmed there is a chance the yacht might have sunk.

Australian Jessica Watson, who is five months older than Sunderland, is the youngest person ever to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation – she returned three days before her 17th birthday in 2010, just six days before Sunderland departed Cape Town. It was not recognised as an official world record because the World Speed Sailing Record Council discontinued its ‘youngest’ category at the turn of the century.

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