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International

US teen sailor arrives on French island

International desk |
Update: 2010-06-25 21:32:09

POINTE DES GALETS: American teen sailor Abby Sunderland arrived Saturday on the French island of Reunion after being rescued from her stricken yacht while attempting a controversial solo round-the-world trip.


As the 16-year-old was reunited with her brother Zac on the island, two weeks after fishermen picked her up in the Indian Ocean, she defended her family against criticism for allowing her to go on her "adventure".


"Any sailor that goes out to the water knows that being hit by a rogue wave is a risk no matter where you are. That is a risk I was willing to take," she told a press conference after arriving on Reunion.


"You can`t eliminate risk, you can do a lot to minimise it but it`s always there," she added. "I knew what to do in case I was hit by something like that and I was always well prepared for anything that happened."


She thanked the fishermen and the French authorities involved in the multi-national rescue effort mounted after her 40-foot (12-metre) yacht Wild Eyes dismasted in a fierce storm on June 10.


After two nights adrift, she was picked up on June 12 by the French fishing boat Ile de la Reunion and transferred to the patrol ship Osiris, which brought her to Reunion. Her boat was abandoned.


Wearing a pink t-shirt and a hooded sweat-shirt, she also thanked her parents and rejected "offensive" criticism of them.


"They put up with a ton of stuff and helped me follow my dream and there was a lot of extremely unfair and offensive criticism towards them," she said,
"They have been my greatest supporters and they have helped me to follow my dream and to think big all my life."


The teenager, who left California in January, is now due to head for the family home in Los Angeles with her 18-year-old brother, who himself has sailed around the world.


"The last few months have really been the best months of my life. I have enjoyed almost every minute of my time out on the water," she said.


"We are all really disappointed that things didn`t go as planned but it was an adventure and you can only plan so far in advance.


She admitted however that she was "sad" to lose her 10-year-old sailboat, which was equipped with a small bunk bed, a water-maker and a store of freeze-dried food.


In Reunion she was also met by the US consul from nearby Mauritius and the regional director of emergency services. She was reunited with her brother on board the Osiris before disembarking.


The rescue came just a month after Australia`s Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail round the world non-stop, solo and unassisted, aged 16.


BDST:1800 HRS , June 26, 2010
NJ

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