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Zac Sunderland and Mike Perham, global sailors, Yank versus Brit

December 10, 2008 |  9:23 am

Zac Sunderland with new acquaintances Ashley and Kate, whom he met while in Mauritius.

Zac Sunderland is on one side of Africa, Mike Perham is on the other. The Yank and Brit, 17 and 16, respectively, are both trying to  become the youngest person to sail alone around the world.

Sunderland, who has been on his adventure since June 14, is currently attempting a tricky sail into Durban, South Africa, and is past the halfway point. But he still must round the treacherous Cape of Good Hope. The Thousand Oaks adventurer is on a grass-roots-type excursion aboard a 36-foot Islander named Intrepid.

He has been doing his own provisioning and is down to canned mac-n-cheese and canned curry.

Perham is aboard a sleek, fully provisioned 50-foot racing yacht. He left Nov. 15 and had planned on sailing nonstop and completing his journey in four months, beating Sunderland into the record book.

Many Sunderland fans perceive this to be a deliberate attempt to steal Zac's thunder. Truth is, Perham had been working toward this project for years.

But no one knows how things will turn out. Perham has been sidelined for more than a week in the Canary Islands because of problems with his autopilot, so his "nonstop" effort is over.

They are two different adventures. Sunderland (pictured above with girls he met in Mauritius) is stopping in ports and seeing the world. Perham just wants to get around it as quickly as he can.

But it has become a race of sorts and both will be winners merely by surviving the length of their odysseys. Sailing around the world alone -- with its storminess and piracy -- is a very serious, man-sized undertaking.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Zac Sunderland with new acquaintances Ashley and Kate, whom he met while in Mauritius. Credit: Richard Munisamy