Is Sailing Wunderkind Abby Sunderland The New Balloon Boy?

We've covered our share of teens making extreme-sports waves in this space, but none are holding headlines like Abby Sunderland. The 16-year-old Californian attempting a solo sail around the world got her boat good and torn up by a storm in the Indian Ocean last week (the delightfully dreadful word for this is "dismasted") and was rescued over the weekend. From the fishing boat that pulled her in, Sunderland got cute with her detractors on her personal blog:

There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more. The truth is, I was in a storm and you don't sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. [...] Storms are part of the deal when you set out to sail around the world.

As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?

Abby's safe and headed home, but her situation has only grown dicier. A growing chorus of haters suggests that the entire rescue episode was a ploy for a forthcoming reality show about the Sunderland family -- a show for which Abby's dad was drawing up paperwork shortly after she set sail, according to the New York Post.

Now, just to further muddy the waters, here's Abby's mother, saying this was all a big misunderstanding:

Before her daughter set sail, she said, the family was approached by Magnetic Entertainment, a small Santa Monica-based company that expressed interest in developing a reality show.

At the time, Abby Sunderland's older brother Zac had just become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, a record that has since been broken.

Magnetic Entertainment shopped the show but never found a buyer, she said, and the family eventually reacquired the rights to its story. She added that family members have no interest in trying to shop them again.

The company still lists plans for a reality show and a documentary on its website, but the state Franchise Tax Board said Monday that Magnetic's business license was suspended for failure to pay back taxes. Company officials did not respond to phone calls or e-mails.

Regardless of the truth here, what I'm left wondering is, why would anyone plan this kind of thing in advance? There's a cute blonde girl in peril on the high seas involved.  If this was indeed a stunt, the way available media outlets rush to brand every two-bit famewhore with a dull stare and a vapid catchphrase for the cameras? If this was a setup, wouldn't it have made more sense to let things play out and let the networks come calling after? (Aspiring show parents, call me. I'm here to help.)

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