Paris The 16-year-old California girl whose dream of sailing solo around the world was dashed by a massive wave that snapped her mast says she still loves sailing and hopes one day to circumnavigate the globe.
In an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Abby Sunderland also defended her parents, who have come under fierce criticism since the young sailor hit 3-story-high waves Thursday in a remote zone of the Indian Ocean. The accident triggered a tense, 20-hour-long maritime search over the dangerous Southern Ocean and her eventual rescue by a French fishing boat.
Sunderland acknowledged that her adventure “can look pretty crazy. But the thing is, those people don’t know me. And if they did, they wouldn’t be criticizing my age.”
She spoke by phone from the remote Kerguelen Islands, near Antarctica, where her rescue boat stopped briefly Tuesday en route to Reunion Island and a true reunion with her family.
“I think that a lot of people are judging me by the standards they have for their teens and other teens that they know ... and thinking ‘she’s exactly like them,’” Sunderland said. “They don’t understand that I’ve sailed my whole life and I do know what I’m doing out there.”
“Storms and bad weather, it’s the chance you take when you’re sailing around the world. And I was up for it, and my parents knew I was,” she added.
On Tuesday, Sunderland posted a statement on her blog from one of the meteorologists who had been tracking the weather for her during her journey. Ken Campbell of New Hampshire-based Commander’s Weather defended both Sunderland’s capabilities as a sailor and her decision to cross the Indian Ocean as winter was approaching.
“We were late crossing the Indian Ocean, but I felt Abby was fully capable,” Campbell wrote.
“We have over 6,000 clients, but we will not work with somebody that is not capable or does something we consider too dangerous,” he added.
Last year, Sunderland’s brother Zac briefly became the youngest person to sail solo around the world when he was 17. That unofficial record now belongs to 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson, who completed her around-the-world solo sailing trip in May.
Sunderland declined to go into details about how her 40-foot yacht became disabled. It has since been abandoned and sunk in the Southern Ocean.
“You don’t have time to be terrified. If you get terrified, things just get worse. You just deal with what you get given and make the best out of it,” she said.
“I think my biggest regret is having to give up my dream, but I didn’t really have a choice,” she said.