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Video: Teen's family was shopping TV show

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    MATT LAUER, co-host: Could a California teenager's attempt to sail solo around the world have been nothing more than a publicity stunt? As Abby Sunderland makes her way home after being rescued from the Indian Ocean , reports have now surfaced that her family was filming a reality television show . NBC 's Kristen Welker has the details.

    Mr. LAURENCE SUNDERLAND: It's absolutely preposterous.

    KRISTEN WELKER reporting: Laurence Sunderland is now on the defensive after it was revealed he was in collaboration with a reality TV show producer for a series about his family.

    Mr. SUNDERLAND: There would have been a lot more better business ventures that I'd have engaged in if I wanted to make money than sending my two children around the world.

    WELKER: The Sunderland family first gained national attention when daughter Abby 's boat sent out distress signals last Thursday. The 16-year-old was rescued from the Indian Ocean after a harrowing 20-hour search. But reality TV show producer Ted Caloroso claims Sunderland mismanaged Abby 's fateful attempt to sail around the world.

    Mr. TED CALOROSO: Yeah, I think he's just trying to save face right now.

    WELKER: Sunderland says he had hoped the reality show would be inspirational, and that instead Caloroso turned it into something sensational.

    Mr. SUNDERLAND: He wanted to make it about me being an irresponsible parent and Abigail dying.

    WELKER: But Caloroso says that's just not true.

    Mr. CALOROSO: The fact that Laurence went -- has gone and talked to news agencies, and saying that we hoped for her death and it would be great for the reality show , is completely ridiculous. I think Abby was pushed too soon to leave on her voyage.

    Mr. SUNDERLAND: How can he pass judgment on something that he has no expertise in whatsoever?

    WELKER: Despite all of the debate and misadventure surrounding Abby Sunderland 's voyage, the teen sailor, who's expected back home in the next few weeks, hasn't given up on her dream.

    Ms. ABBY SUNDERLAND: I'm definitely going to sail around the world again.

    WELKER: As for the reality show , it was dropped after filming began and after Abby set sail because no network would buy it. The Sunderlands haven't ruled out the idea of another show. But for now they say they only have one

    concern: getting their daughter back home safely. For TODAY, Kristen Welker, Thousand Oaks, California.

TODAY contributor
updated 6/15/2010 9:22:04 AM ET 2010-06-15T13:22:04

The father of a California teen who had to be rescued from her disabled yacht in the Indian Ocean exchanged angry accusations with a reality show producer who is promoting two shows based on the girl and her family.

Laurence Sunderland said that there is no deal to produce a reality show about 16-year-old Abby Sunderland’s failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe and accused producer Ted Caloroso of Magnetic Entertainment of hoping Abby would die during her attempt to make for better television.

“He wanted to make it about me being an irresponsible parent and Abigail dying,” Sunderland told NBC News Monday outside his Thousand Oaks, Calif., home.

Sunderland said he did discuss the possibility of a reality show with Magnetic Entertainment in the week after his daughter embarked on her journey in February, but gave up the idea because the producers did not agree with his concept of showing “inspiring kids doing inspirational things.”

Teen was ‘pushed too soon’
Caloroso refuted Sunderland’s allegations, saying the father’s statements are prompted by a desire to deflect criticism of his decision to allow a 16-year-old girl to set out on such a dangerous adventure.

“I think he’s just trying to save face right now,” Caloroso told NBC News. “The fact that Laurence has gone and talked to news agencies and saying that we hoped for her death and it would be great for the reality show is completely ridiculous. I think Abby was pushed too soon to leave on her voyage.”

Two shows in the works?
Despite Sunderland’s denials, Caloroso’s company continued Tuesday morning to promote two shows relating to the Sunderlands and Abby on its website:

  • “Adventures in Sunderland” is a “family-oriented Adventure show, based on the Sunderland Family of Thousand Oaks, CA. We follow the family in their day-to-day lives as shipbuilder Laurence Sunderland and mother/teacher Marianne try to balance work and family.”
  • “Abby’s Journey” is billed as a documentary about Abby’s unsuccessful effort to follow her brother, Zac, in an around-the-world solo sail.

Abby's brother Zac (left) was the first person under 18 to sail solo around the world. Dad Laurence (center) and mom Marianne have six other kids including Abby, with another one on the way.
Writing a book
Abby revealed Sunday on her blog that she’s already writing a book about her adventures.

She wrote the entry aboard the French fishing boat that plucked her off her disabled 40-foot sailboat, Wild Eyes, last week after she lost her mast in a storm along with her satellite phone. A distress beacon helped Australian rescuers to locate her boat. Abby still has several days ahead of her before she reaches land.

“I have started writing. At first I decided that I wasn’t going to write a book. But then I started to think about all the good times Wild Eyes and I have had together. All that’s left of the voyage of Wild Eyes are my memories, eventually they will get fuzzy and I won’t remember all the details. I don’t want that to happen. Wild Eyes and my trip have been the best thing I have ever done or been through and I don’t ever want to forget all the great times we have had together, or the bad ones for that matter.”

‘Since when does age create gigantic waves?’
Laurence Sunderland told The New York Post earlier this week that he’s broke. He said that he began shopping shows about his big, adventurous family and his daughter around the time she set off on Jan. 23 in an effort to become the youngest person to sail solo and nonstop around the world. A year earlier, her brother, Zac, 17, had set the record for a solo circumnavigation, only to see it taken away by other sailors.

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Zac remains the first person under the age of 18 to sail solo around the world. The Magnetic Entertainment site said that his next adventure will be a motorcycle trip from the northernmost to southernmost tips of South America.

Video: Round-the-world teen sailor eyes ‘another try’ Laurence Sunderland and his wife have seven children with an eighth on the way. They described themselves as devout Christians who home school all of their children. When Zac and Abby were small, the family lived on a sailboat.

The Sunderlands have been criticized for allowing minor children to embark on dangerous adventures by themselves. They have also been criticized for the timing of Abby’s trip, which guaranteed that she would be arriving in the southern Indian Ocean during the stormy season.

Abby defended herself and her family in a blog post filed Saturday from the French fishing boat.

Video: Sailor's dad: 'Happy she's in safe hands' “There are plenty of things people can think of to blame for my situation; my age, the time of year and many more,” she wrote. “The truth is, I was in a storm and you don’t sail through the Indian Ocean without getting in at least one storm. It wasn’t the time of year it was just a Southern Ocean 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?”

Her father said that Abby had begun planning for the trip when she was 13 and that the voyage was well planned and thought-out.

“I love my daughter dearly,” Laurence Sunderland told The New York Post. “I love the passion of sailing dearly, and this was about Abigail following her dream. She followed the criteria that I had set out, and met all the requirements to embark on this trip.”

To NBC News Monday he added: “There would have been a lot more better business ventures that I was engaged in if I wanted to make money than sending my two children around the world.”

As for Abby, she told an Australian radio station that she hasn’t sated her hunger for solo sailing.

“I’m definitely going to sail around the world again,” she said. “Or at least give it another try.”

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints


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