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Abby Sunderland recounts storm at sea and her failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe

June 29, 2010 | 12:01 pm

Poised calmly before dozens of news cameras, rescued teen sailor Abby Sunderland on Tuesday recounted the harrowing storm and rogue wave that ended her attempt to sail around the world.

The strongest gales had abated and Abby was down in the cabin working on the engine when a giant wave caught the sails and rolled the boat upside-down. It immediately righted, and when Abby got to the deck, she saw that there was nothing more than a 1-inch stub where her 60-foot mast had been.

During the rollover, she got banged up and briefly blacked out, she said.

"When I got outside, there was nothing there," she said at a news conference at Marina del Rey. "It was a 1-inch stub. There was nothing to jury-rig."

Sunderland recounted the terrifying moments, talked about what she had learned and responded to criticism of her parents during the hourlong news conference.

Sunderland, 16, earlier this month had to abort an attempt to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe. She was rescued June 12 by a French fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean after drifting for two days in her stricken 40-foot yacht Wild Eyes.

She said there were definitely moments when she was terrified on the sea, but she was expecting that when she set sail from Marina del Rey in late January.

She said criticism of her parents allowing her to attempt such a feat at a young age came from people unfamiliar with her and her family. She noted that she had been sailing most of her life and had worked as a crew member on sailboats piloted by her father and older brother, Zac, before leaving on her trip. Zac made his own successful around-the-world solo trip at age 17 last year.

She noted that she had crossed two oceans, two cape horns and was only stopped by a rough wave. “My trip didn’t end because of something I did wrong,” she said.

She said she might write a book about her experience but that her family would not do a reality TV show or a documentary. She said the criticism of her parents was “extremely hurtful.”

For now, she said, she planned to concentrate on finishing high school and getting a driver’s license. But she said her love of the sea had only grown with the trip.

"I have sailed 12,000 miles, and I’m proud of my achievements," she said. "The more I sail, the more I like sailing. I'm definitely going to do more."

Sunderland's parents did not attend the news conference because her mother, Marianne, was in labor with the family’s eighth child, a boy. Sunderland revealed at the news conference that the family had decided to name the baby Paul, after the captain of the Ile de la Reunion, the fishing vessel that plucked Abby from the sea.  

-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: Abby Sunderland, with her brother Zac, answers questions during a news conference in Marina Del Rey a day after she returned home from her attempt to sail around the world. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Photos: Abby Sunderland's

Video: 16-year-old girl starts
solo sail around the world