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Abby Sunderland wants to one-up older brother Zac when she sets sail in November in a quest to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone.
If Abby Sunderland's name sounds familiar, it's probably because you've heard of her famous older brother, Zac. Last summer, Zac became the youngest sailor to sail around the world by himself. Now, Abby wants to break his records.
"I wanted to sail around the world before my brother decided to go," she said."But then my brother decided to go and he was older."
Zac finished his solo circumnavigation last summer at the age of 17, placing him in the record books as the youngest sailor to accomplish the feat. Abby is just 16.
"His trip was warm around the Equator," Abby said. "Where I'm going is freezing cold."
She could being her journey aboard the family's 40-foot racing yacht, "Wild Eyes," this weekend, if the weather cooperates.
"We will let you know as soon as the time, date and place are confirmed," she wrote on her blog.
She plans to sail down the Mexican coast, then on to Central and South America, past treacherous Cape Horn, and on to the giant southern ocean. Abby says it is the Indian Ocean portion of the journey that concerns her the most, with its legendary storms and waves that sometimes reach 100 feet.
Abby will be the second 16-year-old girl to attempt to break Zac's record. Australian Jessica Watson is halfway through her journey. If Watson completes the journey, she will break Zac's records -- but she might not hold onto it for long. Abby is five months younger than Watson. So if Abby is successful, she can supplant both her brother and Watson as the youngest to accomplish the goal.
In fact, Abby's age has generated some concern within the sailing community. The American Sailing Association, which helped to sponsor and certify brother Zac's trip, has declined to do the same for Abby.
Some critics wonder why Abby's voyage will be unassisted by other craft, and non-stop without stops at ports of call.
"When she unties and leaves on Saturday, she will not be coming back to shore until she returns," said her father, Laurence Sunderland.
Her father said it sounds dramatic, and it is. But unsafe? He said he would never allow his children to take on a project they could not handle.
Upon his return, Zac Sunderland spoke of harrowing storms and being pursued by pirates. But Laurence Sunderland said that despite her age, his daughter is also prepared for all challenges, including the frigid southern ocean.
"Some people say, ‘You’re out of your mind. You can’t let your kids do this,’" Laurence Sunderland said. "Some of them, maybe it’s sexism. I wouldn’t want to put a label on all of the naysayers."
"People that criticize -- they don’t know me, really," she said. "And they’ve never been out sailing with me. A lot of them don’t even sail themselves."
Laurence Sunderland admits that even the best sailor can only entertain a 50-50 chance of completing an unassisted, non-stop trip around the world. Equipment failure or unforeseen issues could easily end Abby's trip.