Teens Race to Become Youngest Solo Sailor Ever
Zac Sunderland, 17, just set the world record for becoming the youngest person to solo sail around the globe. But that record may be short lived, as he already has four challengers—a slightly younger British teen (in the video, above), a 16-year-old Australian, a 13-year-old girl… and even his younger sister. Major props to these youngsters—these kids were born in the ‘90s!—who are displaying skill, courage, and enthusiasm for a daunting adventure, and are perhaps just the beginning of a new trend. But how are they paying for it? It's not like hoping on a sailboat and single-handily touring the globe is an easy feat for adults with a lifetime of experience and/or savings, let alone teens. Here are the contenders:
Mike Perham, the 17-year-old from the UK, is expected to return in 11 days on his 50-foot Open racing yacht, totallymoney.com. If he does so successfully, he will be 17 years, 5 months, and 2 weeks old, besting Sunderland’s 17 years, 6 months, and 15 days old. So far, he has sailed from Portsmouth, UK, down the African and South American coasts, then east toward Australia, and back north on the Pacific through the Panama Canal. (Check out his daily updates here.) And if it wasn't painfully obvious, Totally Money is Perham's main sponsor—they financed 75 percent of the trip—so that's how this teen got to circumnavigate the Earth.
Laura Dekker, the 13-year-old Dutch girl, is hoping to set sail on September 1, but those pesky Dutch authorities are trying to stop her. Dekker, who was born on a sailboat near New Zealand, plans to continue her studies by emailing her assignments to school. But the Council for Child Protection says it’s against Dutch education law for Dekker to conduct her schooling from the boat, unless her parents accompany her and administer her learning. Dekker’s two-year planned route is via the Caribbean to Australia and back through the Red Sea, which will take her through the Somali Pirate waters. Hmm, we were right there with you up until pirates. Her parents, who completed a seven-year sailing journey around the world, support Dekker's plan to this and, as a result, are catching some heat by commenters on the Internet. It's also unclear how she (or the parents) plan to pay for this.
Jessica Watson, the 16-year-old Australian sailing a S&S 34 yacht she dubbed Pink Lady, is also prepping for a September launch. Watson, who considers, “the beach, reading, cooking, weather, fencing, dingy sailing, boat design, and CHOCOLATE!” among her interests, hopes to complete her 22,000 nautical mile journey in 7-8 months. She will stay in the southern hemisphere, beginning in Australia traveling along the South Pacific and Southern Ocean back to Australia. Jessica is also being heavily sponsored.
Finally, Abby Sunderland (little sister to Zac) says “pssh” to her older brother’s record even though she's still waiting for sponsorship to cover the $350,000 voyage. The dad, Laurence Sunderland, expects the trip will take six months and cover 24,500 nautical miles. The new theme of youngsters trying to beat her brother’s record isn’t lost on the 15-year-old: "I've been wanting to do this since I was 13, and when I was 13 there was nobody doing this," she told the Associated Press. "So it's kind of like right as I'm about to finally get to do it, all these other kids start popping up doing it." —Laura Buckley
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