16-year-old Solo Sailors

Abby Sunderland's around-the-world attempt hits a speed bump while Jessica Watson rounds the Horn.

Abby Sunderland departs Marina del Rey, California, on Saturday, January 23.

Abby Sunderland departs Marina del Rey, California, on Saturday, January 23.Courtesy Of Abby Sunderland

On Saturday, January 23, Abby Sunderland began her quest to become the youngest person, male or female, to circumnavigate the world. She left from Marina del Rey, California, in light winds, and the plan was (and still is) to make history not only by being the youngest circumnavigator, but also by completing her lap around the globe unassisted and nonstop.

The Sunderlands are no strangers to solo-sailing record-breaking attempts. Abby's older brother, Zac, grabbed some headlines last July when, at 17, he became the youngest person to solo circumnavigate the world, sailing 27,500 nautical miles in 13 months. Not to be outdone, English teenager Mike Perham (who's two months younger than Zac) broke Zac's record about one month later.

Abby is sailing aboard a heavily sponsored Open 40 raceboat, and if all goes according to plan, she hopes to complete the nonstop circuit in just five months. But as anyone who's done a long offshore passage can attest, things don't always go according to plan. She departed with much fanfare (even a full segment on network TV), but she encountered problems almost as soon as she got out of sight of land. Her solar panels and wind generators couldn't keep up with the boat's energy needs. That and the fact that her team didn't budget enough fuel to run the engine enough to keep the batteries charged all the way around the world forced her to head back to land.

Earlier this week, she met her team in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, so the boat could be fitted out with additional fuel and batteries. And she's still going for the nonstop unassisted record. The rules state that to be a record, the boat has to cross the equator twice. Since she's still north of the equator, she's just restarting the record attempt in Cabo.

But Abby isn't alone in her quest for the record. Sixteen-year-old Australian Jessica Watson is over 100 days into her solo-circumnavigation. As you'll see in the video below, she's just rounded the Horn!

Abby and Jessica's adventures bring up some interesting questions. Is it cool that they're out experiencing true adventure rather than hanging out at the mall with their friends? Or do you think they're just 16-year-old girls who have been put up to break a record and grab some headlines?

And what about now 14-year-old Laura Dekker from the Netherlands? The courts originally ruled that she was too young to be allowed to make an attempt when she was 13, and she's since run away from the state supervision that was put in place to stop her. The question we want to know is: Would you let your 13-year-old (not to mention your 16-year old) set off on something like this?

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