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Sea of criticism over teenager's trip

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Sea of criticism over teenager's trip

What were her parents thinking? Many people were asking that question as a 16-year-old California girl sat adrift and alone in the frigid southern Indian Ocean, her boat's mast dashed along with her around-the-world sailing effort.

Abby Sunderland's boat was rolling in 20- to 30-foot waves as she waited to be rescued by a boat that was expected to arrive early this morning Pacific time.

She set off a distress signal Thursday after rough seas disabled her boat and her satellite phone reception. There were 20 hours of tense silence before a search plane launched from Australia's west coast made radio contact with Abby and found her alive and well Friday morning.

Many people criticized her parents for allowing the high-risk adventure, one of several by young people looking to make the record books. Some veteran sailors said it's all but irresponsible to send a teenager off alone in a small boat, knowing it will be tossed about like a toy for 30 or more hours at a time by the giant waves that rake the Southern Hemisphere's oceans this time of year.

Abby's family defends her trek, saying that as a lifelong sailor she was as well prepared for the journey as anyone could be. Her brother Zac, 17, successfully circled the globe last year when he was about the same age.

"Sailing and life in general is dangerous," her father, Laurence Sunderland, said. "Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn't drive a car? I think people who hold that opinion have lost their zeal for life. They're living in a cotton-wool tunnel to make everything safe."

On May 15, Australian Jessica Watson, 16, became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted, completing a 23,000-mile circumnavigation in 210 days.

Associated Press

Sea of criticism over teenager's trip 06/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 11:10pm]

    

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