Brother braces to greet California teen sailor

A brother of the 16-year-old Californian sailor rescued in the Indian Ocean after her boat capsized says he's eager to greet Abby Sunderland as she comes back to civilization.

Sunderland's attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world capsized on June 10 when three-story-high waves snapped her boat's mast. She was rescued two days later by a French fishing boat 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) west of Australia.

Her brother Zac, who himself set a brief record by being the youngest person to sail around the world last year at age 17, plans to meet his sister early Saturday when she reaches the shore of the French island of Reunion, on the French patrol boat Osiris.

"I am looking forward to see her again, so I am very happy to be here and wait for her safe arrival," Zac Sunderland told Associated Press Television News as he arrived on Reunion, a French territory to the southeast of Africa.

Sunderland has been sailing for the past 10 days on the Osiris as it returns from the Kerguelen Islands, a remote and barren patch of rocks in the ocean toward Antarctica, where she was taken briefly after the rescue.

The Osiris patrol boat typically takes eight days to make the trip between Reunion and the Kerguelens, but storms on the high seas have delayed it, said Philippe Museau, director of search and rescue operations on Reunion.

He said he'd be there to welcome Sunderland but that there wouldn't be an official committee, because French authorities consider her arrival to be a private matter.

Sunderland plans to make a brief statement to thank French and Australian rescue teams that helped rescue her.

"She's deeply grateful to them and wants to thank them in person," said Lyall Mercer, a family spokesman in Australia.

He said Zac Sunderland is the only family member to greet her because Sunderland's mother is about to give birth to her eighth child. "Her dad would have loved to come, but the baby is due any day," Mercer said.

Abby Sunderland has had regular satellite phone and e-mail contacts with her mother from the Osiris and is "in good health and in good spirits," Mercer said.

Sunderland's young age as she sailed off to her perilous journey has sparked controversy, with some observers wondering if the family isn't pandering to media attention.

Mercer said Sunderland would meet the media next week in Los Angeles with her parents to "set the record straight" and explain why she sailed off.

Associated Press writer Alfred de Montesquiou in Paris contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Associated Press.

blog comments powered by Disqus