- Associated Press - Saturday, June 26, 2010

SAINT-DENIS, Reunion (AP) — Sixteen-year-old Californian sailor Abby Sunderland got a big hug from her older brother Saturday on the appropriately named Reunion Island, and again defended her family for letting her try to sail around the world alone.

Though saddened by the loss of her boat in an Indian Ocean storm, Sunderland said she isn’t giving up sailing.

“I’m really disappointed that things didn’t go as planned,” Sunderland told reporters after coming to shore early Saturday on the remote French island of Reunion, located in the waters near southeastern Africa.

Massive waves snapped her boat’s mast June 10, and she was rescued in a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean two days later by a French fishing boat. It took two weeks more at sea to reach Reunion, from which she plans to fly home Sunday.

“Any sailor that goes out to the water knows that being hit by a rogue wave is a risk, no matter where you are,” said Sunderland, flanked by her 18-year-old brother Zac, who flew to Reunion to meet her. “That was a risk that I was willing to take.”

Sunderland said she was as well-prepared as she could have been.

“You can’t eliminate risk, you can do a lot to minimize it but it’s always there,” Sunderland said.

Australia and France worked together to rescue the American teenager — and they footed the hefty bills for chartering jets to find her and diverting boats to her location.

Both countries have brushed off questions about the price tag for the American teenager’s solo adventure and say they have no plans to seek compensation for the maritime search and rescue operation.

Sunderland thanked everyone who helped in her rescue and acknowledged “the public debate about the cost of rescues.”

“I know that the USA would do the same for a citizen of any other country as these countries did for me,” she said.

Sounding composed and lucid, she choked up only once, when thanking Zac — who at 17 briefly held the record for being the youngest person to sail solo around the world — for “inspiring my dreams.”

Her brother met the French patrol boat as it sailed into the harbor of Reunion’s capital, Saint-Denis, climbing aboard and embracing her as Abby teared up.

The accident “ended my trip but it didn’t end my dream,” Sunderland said. But she blanched and didn’t answer, however, when asked whether she would try another solo circumnavigation anytime soon.

Her parents stayed in California, where her mother is soon to give birth to her eighth child.

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