Marianne Sunderland's 13-month stint of motherly worry and earnest prayers ended this past July when her 17-year-old son Zac landed his one-man sailing vessel at Marina del Rey in California. The homecoming completed a voyage that made the savvy teenager the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe alone.
But the story does not end there for this mother of seven. Zac's little sister Abby, 15, has announced plans to duplicate her brother's feat. What's more, she's aiming for a nonstop trip that will take her the opposite way around the world and around each of the globe's major capes. Marianne Sunderland will hardly have time to catch her breath before her little girl casts off in late November.
"I'm not the adventurer type, so I find it hard to fathom why you would even want to do this," the homeschooling mother says. "It's better than taking algebra, I guess."
To wit, the Sunderlands are helping reshape stereotypes of homeschooling and homeschoolers. Zac and Abby, who inherited their sea legs and bug for adventure from their father Laurence, are anything but sheltered social misfits. And their penchant for worldwide exploration might better brand their academic experience global-schooling.
"Without homeschooling, I wouldn't be doing this," says Abby, who turns 16 Oct. 19. "It's good to show people that homeschoolers aren't the total nerds and book people that they might get the impression we are."
With her brother's accomplishment bringing publicity, Abby hopes to secure sufficient sponsorships to purchase more of a racing boat than the cruiser Zac used. The added speed would shorten her trip and lend greater potential to recapture the record of youngest solo circumnavigator for the Sunderland family-a mark taken from Zac not long after his landing by British teen Mike Perham.
But, for Abby, the record is less important than the adventure. She's wanted to sail around the world since age 13, before thoughts of records ever crept into the conversation. "In order to get sponsorships, you need media coverage, which the record brings. It's really kind of annoying. It gets in the way sometimes."
More critically, money stands as the primary obstacle in Abby's way at the moment. She says that if the necessary funds don't come in soon, she'll know that her planned quest is not God's will. That possibility would prove disappointing to the second-oldest sibling of the Sunderland clan, even if not to her mother.
Though supportive, Marianne Sunderland is less than ecstatic over the prospect of too many more children taking to the seas. Her 10-year-old daughter, Jessie, recently assured her, "Don't worry Mom. I have no interest whatsoever."
She's not convinced: "You know how 10-year-olds are. They're so sweet, and then they turn 13 and say, 'I do want to sail around the world.'"
The collective shoulders of America's third-largest city slumped with disappointment Oct. 2 when International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge announced that Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Games. Many longtime Chicago dignitaries, including mayor Richard Daley and Barack and Michelle Obama, had seemed confident that the Windy City would nab the bid. Instead, Chicago finished last among the four candidates, with Madrid and Tokyo also losing out to the Games' first ever South American location.
Pundits have called the decision a major defeat for President Obama, who traveled to Copenhagen to make a personal appeal for his favorite city. But the biggest loser in the ordeal is clearly Daley, who backed the spending of almost $50 million over four years in pursuit of the Games.