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Calif. teen sailor rescued by French fishing vessel

Abby Sunderland, 16, who set out months ago from her home state of California to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe in a boat, was rescued by a French fishing vessel from the Southern Indian Ocean Saturday.

Her yacht, Wild Eyes, became demasted in a storm that brought 30-foot waves crashing into her on Thursday.

Critics have blamed a host of factors, including her young age, for causing this attempt to fail, but in the end, she wrote on her blog, the wave would have taken out the mast of any boat, regardless of the pilot's age.

Her attempt at the record ended when she had to stop for repairs earlier in her voyage. The record must be achieved solo and without any stopping. But her voyage was continuing, for reasons of personal triumph and in tribute to the many people around the world who had supported her efforts.

She was forced to abandon Wild Eyes at sea as she boarded the fishing boat, Île de la Réunion. The vessel was sent, along with two others, by a host of US, Australian, and international authorities which coordinated the rescue effort, including MAMSA RCC Australia, Maritime RCC La Reunion, Qantas, WA Police, Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia, Defence. Abby sent her thanks by her blog and, we can be sure, in person where she could.

She quoted the ship's captain, a "big, friendly, bald guy with a big beard," as saying, "Is no good to worry about the boat. Is just a boat, you is safe. You should not think about the past."

As true as that may be, she said, it's "hard to keep my mind off everything that's happened."

She has started writing a book about her adventure, she wrote: "I started to think about all the good times Wild Eyes and I have had together. All that's left of the voyage of Wild Eyes are my memories. Eventually they will get fuzzy and I won't remember all the details. I don't want that to happen. Wild Eyes and my trip have been the best thing I have ever done or been through, and I don't ever want to forget all the great times we have had together, or the bad ones for that matter."

Her words and the nonsense thrust onto the Internet by her critics have called to mind the famous "Man in the Arena" speech by President Theodore Roosevelt, spoken at Sorbonne in Paris, 100 years and two months ago:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Her attempt, though she failed in her primary mission, has been an inspiration to us, three times her age, as well as teenagers across the globe. Her blog, given at the link below, has been inundated with thousands of comments, almost every one of them wishing her well.

She is traveling eventually to an island near Madagascar, from which she will make her way home to California.

Related Links

Abby's blog

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By Paul Katula, Voxitatis Research Foundation