Monday, June 14, 2010
The Real Sunderland Reality Author: Popeye Date: 6/14/2010 10:54:33 PM
Abby Sunderland was rushed out the gate in an ill prepared attempt to get an obscure record. She had to stop at Cabo for major upgrades on her boat. There were 2 auto pilots on the boat and the electrical demand exceeded the ability of the wind generators and solar panels to supply power. This was in California and Mexico, not the overcast Atlantic or Souther Ocean where you might not see the sun for days. Bad omen and signs of total incompetence before even leaving the Americas.
Abby continued to have problems with the 2 auto pilots for most of her trip. She stated in her blog that she had no wind-vane steering because her boat went too fast. This of-course is nonsense. I have sailed boats with twice the hull speed of her boat that used the system. Zak Sunderland, her brother in his circumnavigation and Jessica Watson in her record breaking circumnavigation had wind-vanes installed. I can only guess she was parroting the misinformation her father gave her. Monitor wind-vanes do not require electricity to run and are the preferred safety navigation system for most epic adventurers.
When both navigation systems inevitably failed Abby stopped in Cape town to replace them. Her Father flew down to help. As well as replacing the navigation system he helped with repairs. Rather than wait for a cradle at the boat yard to hoist the boat out to repair a scratch in the hull, they did the most boneheaded and dangerous repair you can do on a sailboat. They tied a rope to the top of the mast and using leverage pulled the boat over to expose the hull (photos on Abby's blog Thursday May 13). I have seen masts snap when this has been tried and the fact that her mast later broke might not be coincidental.That action creates enormous stress on the mast and deck fittings. It is something you do on hobby-cats and small sailboats, not on a 40 foot boat if there are any alternatives. Again, incompetence, rushing and ignorance setting her up for failure.
The builder of her boat, Marty Still, warned them not to continue as it was the wrong time of year for the southern Ocean in that type of boat with such an inexperienced sailor. Her father let her go anyway.
The claims of Abby being an experienced sailor are put to rest in her own words and actions. In her blog on June 2 I was horrified to read on that she went on deck in a storm at night without her foul weather safety gear. She stated she didn't have time to put it on. Sailing 101 tells you otherwise. It took her days to get dry and warm again.
The photo of her boat de-masted are a pictorial record of her inexperience. You can see the trailing mast and sails in the water. A mast can and does puncture the hull of the boat if it is allowed to dangle from the boat after going overboard and bash against the hull. An experienced sailor would cut it free to eliminate the danger of sinking the boat. She either (a) didn't know to do that (b) was not equipped with the necessary tools (c) didn't have the strength. Any answer is reason to believe she shouldn't have been out there in those conditions. I think she was so controlled from shore by her team that when the mast went down and she lost contact and was left to her own devices her inexperience showed.
Two Sat phones and two auto pilots do not make you safe if you do not have the fundamental survival skills. Her father put her life in jeopardy when he allowed her to continue from Cape Town into the Southern Ocean at the most dangerous time of year. Her boat was knocked down twice, Jessica Watson had her boat knocked down 7 times in her record breaking circumnavigation. The difference is Jessica boat was more suited to the task, was better prepared and she is a vastly more experienced sailor than Abby and was through the southern Ocean before Abby got to Cape Town.
Abby did a great job and was lucky to round the two capes in relatively mild conditions(Jessica had 5 knockdowns before she entered the Indian Ocean). I would have applauded her efforts if common sense prevailed and she stayed in cape-town and continued when the weather was better.
Her father equates this with letting a 16 year old drive a car. But you don't let a 16 year old drive a car on ice, at night with no headlights and bald tires. That's the equivalent conditions he put Abby in.
The difference between the balloon boy's attention seeking Dad and Abby's Father is that Balloon Boys dad did not actually risk the life of his kid in an attempt at fame and fortune.
My Response to Above Author: Interested in learning Date: 6/15/2010 12:35:59 AM
"The difference between the balloon boy's attention seeking Dad and Abby's Father is that Balloon Boys dad did not actually risk the life of his kid in an attempt at fame and fortune."
Good post Popeye! You obviously appear to know more about sailing than any of the other posts I've read on this subject. You make good sound cogent points in your post regarding sailing and I accept them.
I've been sailing, but the extent of my sailing experience could be compared to someone having a couple of rides on a helicopter. By no means could that person be considered a helicopter pilot after a couple of rides. Neither am I a sailor.
I do see a difference in the ballon boy's dad and Abby's dad though other than the one you pointed out above. The ballon boy's dad fraudulently called 911 when his son didn't really need any help and he knew it.
Abby really needed help.
So how culpable is her dad? By your post, it is pretty clear to me now that he is the type of individual whose glass is half full. If you're half the sailor your post indicates you are, and if you are also a seasoned helicopter pilot then we both know that glass half full attitude can get you seriously hurt or killed in both sailing and flying helicopters.
The last I heard, stupidity is not a crime. Stupidity can extract an extreme cost. Fortunately Abby dodged the ultimate cost here.
This is a good analogy you made: "Her father equates this with letting a 16 year old drive a car. But you don't let a 16 year old drive a car on ice, at night with no headlights and bald tires. That's the equivalent conditions he put Abby in." Kinda like trying to do a Blackhawk job in a Bell 47. Not smart. I don't know that the extremes are that extreme because I don't have the experience to judge, so to me it seems more like trying to accomplish in a Huey something a Blackhawk is way more suitable for like carrying a full squad.
From your post it looks like Abby's dad could use a lot more experience. I have to ask myself, "was he malicious in what he did? Or just unknowingly stupid?" Both can get you in serious trouble, one deserves the consequences way more than the other. Though both may suffer the same.
Our aircraft require an air worthiness certificate. We also require a checkout before we are allowed to do certain things. It appears in the sailing world anyone is free to do whatever they wish. Maybe not a good idea where the underage is concerned. How hard would it be for the coastguard to give a stamp of approval or a denial in a situation like this?
I'm curious; if Abby did have a suitable boat properly equipped for solo circumnavigation of the world, if the boat was properly handled (thinking of the inappropriate mast technique to inspect the hull), and finally if Abby demonstrated that she had the necessary nautical skill to include the judgment not to sail into hostile waters at the wrong time of the year, would you say it is okay for a 16 year old to attempt what she did?
You also said, "The builder of her boat, Marty Still, warned them not to continue as it was the wrong time of year for the southern Ocean in that type of boat with such an inexperienced sailor. Her father let her go anyway." It appears that was sound advice. We are often faced with conflicting views. Usually it takes a good strong consensus to sway us. (I've flown in weather in the military I wouldn't consider flying in, in EMS.) Even then you may see a contrarian. I remember years ago in IQD on a rainy night all the instructors except for one chose to stand down. I was one of the instructors that stayed on the ground with the herd. The IP that flew told me later that he wasn't afraid of just rain. There was no thunderstorm activity and it was a good experience for his students. That was an eyeopener for me. It is nice to have the experience, knowledge, and skills to go against the herd "wisely". It is also better to err on the side of safety when you know you don't know. May God help those who don't know they don't know which looks like what happened here. That doesn't mean He will, but for Abby I'm grateful He did.
IMO that was a good post you made Popeye. I appreciate you taking the time to express yourself. You've given me a better understanding and insight into what took place. Thanks.
BTW I was one of the main advocates for Abby and her parents down below. I'm still for her and am still inclined to give her parents the benefit of the doubt though you've shed some light on a lot. The light shed still makes me curious, how is it in the sailing world that someone can attempt to pull something like this without more oversight? Can you say, "Hello Captain Ron".
Once again, thanks for the time you took to make the post you did.
Posted by David at 10:56 PM