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

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

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Comments (13)

I have met Zac Sunderland briefly when he had his stop here on Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean after he had to get some help due to trouble at sea. I have met lots of circumnavigators during the local winter months but it's the first time I have been following someone so frequently afterwards. The way he and his parents and supporters share the project via Zacs blog is great and gives a lot of insight about the challenges, the dangers but also about the beauty of such a project. I can only say that I wish everyone luck who decides for such a turn, I rarely met weird yacht people and even the most prepared and experienced ones are often facing hard moments, getting through has very rarely something to do with age...but with learning to assess a situation, to take decisions, to overcome some limits and to accept others...It strikes me as a very suitable way of becoming an adult and responsible person...Something a lot of older people have never been able to learn.

So, here my best wishes for everyone out there...!

hey I think what they are doing is awsome. they are both very brave and if i was brought up in your family man that is a dream of a lifetime my ? is why should their be arrested. they are there parents and have authority over thier children and both of of their children are old enough to make there own decisions. I'll be praying for both of you

I have been following Zac Sunderland's adventures via his blog since mid-June when he left MDR. Everyone who has followed his blog has seemed to "adopt" the young lad. My hat is off to him and his marvelous parents for giving him the confidence and green light. At 16, when most kids his age would much prefer to hang out at the mall, cruise "chicks" and waste their time text messaging, ditch school, or join a gang -- Zac is having the adventure of his lifetime and making some kind of History. I love this boy as if he was my own -- and I don't even have children. I pray for him and read his blogs and marvel, now here is a kid with spunk and daring. I am 61 and have had my own youthful adventures, but now enjoy a good "armchair" adventure from the safety and comfort of my livingroom or newspaper and Zac does not disappoint. I have so much respect for not only Zac, but his parents Marianne and Lawrence for supporting the boy's passion for good ol' fashion adventure and stick to itness. His parents are giving Zac a wonderful introduction to life, to becoming independent, self sufficient, brave and allowing him to make decisions that no teenager normally would outside of which movie to rent or what T shirt to wear to the mall. Zac rocks and there should be more parents allowing their kids to scale Mt. Everest, visit Kat Mandu, photo safari in Africa, take a hot air balloon around the world, anything to get them away from their insepid iPods and video games. This young man, Zac has the ultimate video game -- it's called Intrepid and his joy stick is a tiller, a compass and radar. Wow. I can't say enough good things about Zac Sunderland and his parents. I live in the San Fernando Valley, not to far from Marina Del Rey and feel like Zac is doing a fine job representing the State of California. I start my morning by opening up his blog just to see how his day is going and always offer a prayer for his safe journey and return to Marina Del Rey. You go, Zac!

No, Toby... you aren't the only one who thinks this is totally insane. I am sure there are others out there who share your opinion. But I am equally as sure that you and your counterparts are in a very small minority of people. As for their parents being arrested, I would ask why? They are (at least I imagine, since I don't really know anything about the boy from the UK or his parents) to be commended for recognizing the abilities of their sons and allowing them to tackle an opportunity that truly will only come once in their lifetimes. I believe that their parents are probably more in tune with them than many parents today who's kids never leave the neighborhood or even hometown yet the parents have no idea what the kids are up to! So, to the parents I say thank you for knowing your children well enough to know they are fully capable young gentlemen and for allowing your sons to tackle their dreams. To those fine young gentlemen I wish nothing but the best.

Great going to both boys! The experiences are totally different and Pete has differentiated them well.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out between the two sailors. The two stories parallel very well. Zac is absolutely doing this the right way whether he ends up in the record book or not. A grass roots effort with money scraped together on his own meager boat. He is enjoying his trip spending time in all the ports along the way. He has met with many people, in all walks of life, in faraway places, and experienced many cultures and lands already with more to come. It's the trip of a lifetime and he will never again be the boy who left MDR. Except maybe, only in his heart.

Fair winds Zac, this experience can never be taken away.

Scot in California

Zac will not be slowed down by the two acquaintances because he has moved on. Zac was taken from the hospital where he was born and lived on board a boat for 9 years. He has been sailing all his life, 17 years of this life. He just turned 17 on November 29th. Believe me his parents would not have let him take this incredible journey if they didn't have the up most confidence in his sailing abilities. Zac's Dad is a shipwright and sailing has been past down from his father also. Zac also has a satellite telephone and speaks with his parents twice a day. Read Zac's blog at www.zacsunderland.com because it's full of information. This kid Zac and his whole family are what I would call a Great Family full of love and happiness. Zac also has six brothers and sisters!!!

Douglas Pistone
MDR, California

Damn.. those Mauritian chicks are hot! ;)

As a sailor (35+ years), a high school teacher of a class called "Literature of the Sea" for 28 years and a Sea Scout parent and adviser, I think that the boys' parents know if their kids have the knowledge, ability and temperament to sail around the globe. The only real dangers are the ones that cannot be predicted and who in the world can predict what is going to happen to them tomorrow. I wish both of them luck. Sailing long distances by oneself is hard work no matter what kind of boat one sails - just ask Robin Graham, Tani Abei, Steve Callahan, Webb Chiles and hundreds of other solo sailors. Good luck guys and fair winds ...

What an awesome journey. I hope the Yank wins. Typical English snobbery that the Brit is sailing a "racing yacht". I'm envious of his freedom. His parents should be complimented although I know my parents would never have let me do that... they did let me sail through the Agean to retrace Odysseus's journey from Homer's Odyssey when i was 16. It was incredible and I met a dutch girl who I still remember fondly. Go for it Zac but don't let the chicks slow you down. One night and move on dude!

The parents of the 2 boys should be arrested??? For what? Being responsible enough to sail around the world?
Looks like he's having some fun, too ;>)

I hope Zac isn't slowed down by his two "new acquaintances."

Am I the only one here who thinks this is TOTALLY insane? The parents of these two boys should be arrested.


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