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Zac Sunderland clear of pirate zone but faces daunting sail to Africa

November 20, 2008 | 11:15 am

Zac Sunderland atop his mast while in port at Mauritius.

Zac Sunderland is suffering from the flu in Mauritius while working feverishly to repair his  36-foot sailboat so he can begin his 1,500-mile sail to Durban, South Africa.

Not too far to the north, also in the Indian Ocean off Somalia, pirates are out of control. Earlier this week, an Indian warship blew up a suspected pirate vessel off the Horn of Africa.

Sunderland, 16, before embarking on his solo-circumnavigation attempt from Marina del Rey last June, had originally considered sailing through the Suez Canal, which would have required passing directly through the most dangerous pirate-infested waters.

Still, the Thousand Oaks teen had better stow his Jack Sparrow costume because authorities are not joking around when it comes to piracy.

And nor will the seas be placid between Mauritius and Durban.

Marianne Sunderland, also suffering from the flu, has been helping maintain her son's blog and reports:

"There is, reportedly, a storm that lives off of the southern tip of Madagascar. Zac's job will be to stay far enough south of Madagascar to avoid this storm without going too far and getting blown south of Durban and needing to beat to get into port."

Zac is awaiting delivery of a new sail and will depart either Saturday or Monday.

Marianne Sunderland also commented on England's Mike Perham, also 16, who left Saturday and hopes to complete his nonstop, around-the-world voyage aboard a 50-foot racing yacht in May.

Zac Sunderland, who turns 17 on Nov. 29, is seeing the world and may not complete his journey till June.

The view of Grand Baie from atop the mast.

"We have the highest regard for Mike and his family and wish him well," Marianne Sunderland wrote. "The two trips are completely different with Perham going fully sponsored in a million-dollar racing boat.

"I don't think it makes either trip better than the other. No matter what happens both young men have extraordinary strength and vision to take on this monumental task and are to be commended for it."

If Mike and Zac both complete their journeys as planned, Zac will still be the youngest American solo circumnavigator and a very accomplished sailor."

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Zac Sunderland atop his mast while in port at Mauritius (top photo), and the view from the mast of Grand Baie. Credit: Zac Sunderland