Back in the late 1960s Robin Lee Graham became the youngest to sail around the world in a journey famously recorded in the book “Dove”.Many cruising sailors (including myself) were inspired to head out to sea after reading the enchanting tale of Graham’s five-year voyage.
Since then Robin Lee Graham’s record has been broken by a handful of individuals including Tania Abei, Jesse Martin, and David Dicks.Although modern technology has made offshore sailing easier, there is no denying that a teenager has to have nerves of steel to sail away from all things familiar and spend over a year alone facing the perils of the open ocean.
On July 16, 2009 the record for the youngest solo circumnavigation of the world was broken yet again. Zac Sunderland of California returned to the harbor of Marina del Ray to complete his thirteen-month journey around the world.Like Robin Lee Graham he departed when he was sixteen, but a speedy voyage meant that not only is he the youngest to complete a solo circumnavigation, but also the first to complete this goal before the age of 18.
Sunderland purchased his secondhand 36-sailboat with earnings from summer jobs and announced to his parents that he planned on becoming the youngest to sail around the world.While initially shocked, his parents supported the endeavor and assisted Sunderland in reaching his goal.Over the course of thirteen months Sunderland faced pirates in the Indian Ocean, large storms, and endless monotony and loneliness.
Zac Sunderland’s title as the youngest to sail solo around the world is likely to be short-lived.British teenager Mike Perham is currently close to completing his own solo circumnavigation later this August.Barring unforeseen delays, Perham (a few months younger than Sunderland) will become the youngest.
Regardless, Zac will never have to relinquish his title as being the first person under 18 to sail around the world alone.Well done!