Sunderland yacht off Kangaroo Island is ‘unsinkable’

The yachtsman who built the yacht now abandoned off Kangaroo Island says it will never sink.

And if the yacht does wash ashore and break up, he said there would be foam everywhere.

There have been no additional sightings of the vessel since it was last spotted only 2km off Cape Kersaint west of Vivonne Bay on the weekend of January 4-5.

The yacht “Wild Eyes” was abandoned by then 16-year-old Abby Sunderland eight years ago after being dis-masted in the mid Indian Ocean.

A tuna spotting aircraft first sighted the 40-foot yacht on New Year’s Eve about 11km south of Kangaroo Island and it was subsequently identified as the abandoned Sunderland yacht.

KI rock lobster fisherman Ben Tyley said Wild Eyes was spotted again by a tuna spotting aircraft on the weekend but there had no additional sightings since then.

An Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association spokesperson also said there had been no additional sightings.

Mr Tyley, who along with other rock lobster boats is working waters off Vivonne Bay, said the abandoned yacht was a shipping hazard and he would like to see it removed from local waters.

“It would be good to get rid of it from these waters,” he said.

That was if it had not already drifted away or washed ashore, although rock lobster boats that were regularly travelling between Vivonne Bay and the western end of the Island had not seen any evidence of the yacht along the shoreline.

However, with the big swells of the past week, he would not be surprised if it had already washed up.

He said while commercial fishing vessels were too busy to get involved in a salvage operation without proper compensation, the local fishing fleet would always respond to any real emergency and was ready to assist when the mystery vessel was first found.

LAST SIGHTING: The last sighting of the yacht Wild Eyes 2km off Cape Kersaint, just west of Vivonne Bay on the South Coast of Kangaroo Island.

LAST SIGHTING: The last sighting of the yacht Wild Eyes 2km off Cape Kersaint, just west of Vivonne Bay on the South Coast of Kangaroo Island.

Salvage attempts

The Islander after its previous article about the abandoned yacht was contacted by Laurence Sunderland, father of Abby Sunderland.

He wanted to make contact with Carol Miell at American River Volunteer Marine Radio to assist in salvage attempts.

Mr Sunderland has since made contact with American River Radio and has alerted to the possibility of a larger mainland charter boat getting involved in a salvage operation, if the yacht can be located. 

Australian Volunteer Coast Guard unit on Kangaroo Island was considering assisting with the salvage but its 7.1m Sharkcat rescue boat was not suited to towing a large, partially submerged yacht.

There are also no proper boat launching facilities on the South Coast of KI, only beach launching from Vivonne Bay and D'Estrees Bay to the east.  

The Islander has also contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to see under what circumstances the yacht would be declared a shipping hazard. 

BTC VELOCITY: Round-the-world sailor Alan Paris on BTC Velocity about 30 minutes before crossing the finish line after 30,000-nautical-mile solo voyage. Photo: Billy Black

BTC VELOCITY: Round-the-world sailor Alan Paris on BTC Velocity about 30 minutes before crossing the finish line after 30,000-nautical-mile solo voyage. Photo: Billy Black

Previous owners

The yacht off KI was built by Jon Sayer in Brisbane for sailor Alan Paris for his solo circumnavigation solo in the Around Alone 2002/2003 yacht race. Her name then was BTC Velocity. 

Mr Paris, a New Zealander, was then living in Bermuda and after his successful 30,0000-nautical-mile circumnavigation, he kept her there and sailed around the Caribbean.

When having her built, he said the race regulations stipulated that vessels be at least 115 per cent buoyant and he said he personally made sure that every last available space was filled with expanding foam.

“The aft compartments were filled with foam on both port and starboard, and almost the entire forward compartment was filled with foam,” Mr Paris said. “All the structure you see is foam with fibreglass.”

He said he actually used the Titanic “unsinkable” analogy in his lectures about his sailing and said even if she broke up, each individual piece would float.

And if she ever broke up the rocks, there was enough foam contained within to spread over a large area.

In the sad event, she did break up on the rocks, he said he would be very interested in securing a small piece to hang in his garage as a memento or souvenir. 

The yacht’s second owner, Michael Millard of Stamford, Connecticut, USA has also been in touch and wanted to be kept abreast of developments.

“I was the owner between Alan Paris and Abby Sunderland,” he wrote. “Contrary to custom but for very good reason, I renamed the boat Wildeyes. For some unknown reason, Abby changed the spelling.”

“I enjoyed my time with the boat racing her shorthanded for five years back and forth to Bermuda.”

“She meant a lot to me. She meant even more to Abby… If it weren't for Wildeyes, that girl, at the time, wouldn't be here. She was damn lucky to be in the unsinkable Wildeyes.”

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