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Spotter jet finds teen sailor alive, well

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., June 11 (UPI) -- The California teen trying to become the youngest solo sailor to circumnavigate the world was found alive adrift in the Indian Ocean, the teen's family said.

A spotter jet over the Indian Ocean late Thursday made contact with Abby Sunderland, 16, of Thousand Oaks, who was adrift in rough seas and heavy winds, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

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While Sunderland's boat was upright, its mast had been knocked off by rough seas, a family spokesman. The teen was said to be in good health, had plenty of food and was waiting for the arrival of a fishing boat in about a day, said Jeff Casher, a technical adviser for the voyage.

Her parents "understand she is perfectly safe, and at this point there is nothing to be worried about," Casher said.

Concern about Sunderland grew on Internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter throughout the day Thursday after the family reported losing contact with her early Thursday morning.

Sunderland has passed the halfway point in her quest to become the youngest solo sailor to circle the world, the Times said. She left Marina del Rey, Calif., Jan. 23 in her 40-foot boat "Wild Eyes." Rough seas in the South Atlantic after she rounded Cape Horn forced her to dock for repairs, ending her hope of a non-stop trip.

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On CBS' "The Early Show" Friday, the teen's father, Laurence Sunderland, defended the decision he and his wife made to allow their daughter make the voyage.

"How she's handled the situation she's in right now is another reason that you can be rest assured that she's more than qualified to survive and succeed out there," he said.

Renowned Australian sailor Ian Kiernan told Sky News the teenager should not have been in the southern Indian Ocean during the southern hemisphere's winter season.

"Abby would be going through a very difficult time with mountainous seas and essentially hurricane-force winds," Kiernan said.

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