In spring 2008 Marina del Rey was consumed with one story: 16-year-old Zac Sunderland’s plan to sail around the world alone in an old 36-foot boat. It was an adventure that stirred national attention and controversy. Many felt that sending a boy who had never sailed solo into a perilous open ocean was, at the very least, irresponsible parenting.
Despite the criticism, the soft-spoken teenager remained undeterred from his goal to circumnavigate the globe. On a calm summer afternoon he quietly cast off from the docks at Burton Chace Park in his Islander 36, Intrepid, on an arduous voyage that would ultimately land him in the record books.
On July 16, 2009 — 13 months later — a now 17-year-old Zac arrived home to a massive crowd of well-wishers and media. Controversy had morphed into respect for a kid who silenced critics with success, and he was soon posing with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and turning up regularly on national television.
The following year, Zac’s sister Abby announced that she planned on sailing around the world as well, but with no stops, which would make her the youngest person to sail the globe nonstop. Attempting a more dangerous feat than her brother had, Abby’s plan got far less support and far more criticism than Zac’s. Abby set sail from Marina del Rey nonetheless, but her boat presented numerous equipment problems. In June 2010 she became lost at sea in the remote Southern Pacific until her rescue by the Australian Coast Guard.
— Pat Reynolds