Australia’s Jessica Watson is currently the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe solo. In a few days Dutch 16-year-old Laura Dekker will take her record.
Yet according to Dekker’s former manager, the teenage adventurer with the best sailing record is American teen Abby Sunderland – who had to abandon her quest to be the youngest solo-sailor after being hit by a rogue wave in the Indian Ocean in 2010.
“Jessica’s trip was almost over before it started when she hit a bulk carrier. By comparison, Abby hit nothing but was simply a victim of extreme weather,” explained Lyall Mercer, who has worked with both Sunderland and Dekker.
Mercer was Sunderland’s publicist after she was rescued and taken to the French Island of La Reunion, assisting the young sailor to weather the media storm amid intense criticism of her parents by the American media.
Mercer also worked as Dekker’s publicist until recently, when he handed the job to a family friend based in the Dutch Caribbean where Dekker is due to arrive.
He said Dekker is a very accomplished sailor and “deserves all the accolades” but had the benefit of choosing the best weather on each leg, something Watson and Sunderland did not.
“Jessica ran into a ship and Laura could basically wait out rough weather until it was safe. Of the three sailors, Abby is the stand-out. She is the youngest person to round Cape Horn solo and was on track to complete her journey when a wave – not a ship – stopped her.”
Mercer said it was ironic that Sunderland is still not always given the credit for such a tremendous feat. “There is no doubt that all three are amazing girls and great sailors, but Abby has the best record and this should be recognised,” he said.