Teen sailor's family denies plan for reality show

Marianne and Laurence Sunderland, parents of would-be solo round-the-world sailor Abby Sunderland, talk with reporters at their home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Saturday morning, June 12, 2010. It was confirmed a French fishing vessel had rescued Abby from her crippled sailboat in the turbulent southern Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

June 14, 2010 3:33:41 PM PDT
The family of a 16-year-old California girl rescued from the Indian Ocean as she tried to sail solo around the world has no plans to cash in on their child's adventure with a reality TV show, documentary or any other deal, Abby Sunderland's mother told The Associated Press on Monday.

Marianne Sunderland also said reports the family signed a deal for a reality show while her daughter was at sea were untrue.

"There is no reality TV show, there's no documentary that's going to be made, there's no book deal," Sunderland said.

The New York Post reported Monday that Abby Sunderland's father Laurence said he signed a contract for a reality show weeks after his daughter set sail from Southern California last January.

Marianne Sunderland said that report and others were based on misinformation and misunderstandings.

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.

"They just wanted to do a show showing what our life is like and how we ended up with kids who are ambitious," said Marianne Sunderland, who lives in suburban Thousand Oaks with her husband and their seven children. She is expecting an eighth child in a few days.

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.

"At the time it seemed like a good thing," Marianne Sunderland said of a reality show. "Everyone we were working with was super friendly and seemed to have plans for a good show."

Since then, she noted, the family has been relentlessly criticized for letting their teenage son and daughter attempt to sail around the world alone. They have also been ridiculed for the size of their family and sometimes accused of using their children to become wealthy and famous.

Such criticism, as well as the attempts of others to enrich themselves, has soured the family on media attention, Marianne Sunderland said.

She said her daughter has indicated she may write a book just to chronicle her adventures.

Family spokesman Jeff Casher said Abby Sunderland filmed much of her voyage before being rescued by a fishing boat 2,000 miles west of Australia on Saturday. Some of the film was transmitted to her family during the journey, Casher said, and some was collected when she stopped for repairs in South Africa earlier this year.

Abby Sunderland had to abandon her boat, Wild Eyes, after a wave broke its mast. Shortly before losing satellite communication with her family on Thursday, she had talked of the boat being tossed about by waves as tall as three-story buildings. She was rescued after she set off her vessel's emergency beacons.

On her blog Sunday, she offered thanks for the extensive rescue effort made on her behalf that included chartering an Australian airliner to make contact with her before a fishing vessel could arrive.

"I had only hoped that a ship would pass by me within a few weeks," she wrote. "I am really in awe. Thank you to everyone involved."

Within a half hour of the rescue, reporters from around the world were calling the boat, trying to talk to her. The boat's captain has shielded her from the inquiries.

"I'm very grateful for that," Sunderland wrote. "I really don't want to start doing interviews quite yet."

The teenager, whose family says she has been sailing solo for years, set out from Marina del Rey on the Southern California coast on Jan. 23, trying to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo and nonstop.


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