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Zac Sunderland or Mike Perham: Which teen sailor will be first around world?

February 13, 2009 | 10:32 am

Zac Sunderland and Mike Perham (right) meet in Cape Town aboard Mike's 50-foot racing yacht.

A lot has been written here about Zac Sunderland, 17, who is currently sailing across the Atlantic in pursuit of a quest to become the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the planet.

It also has been reported that England's Mike Perham, 16 and five months younger than Zac, is aspiring to beat Zac around the world in a much larger, faster boat.

Zac, who lives in Thousand Oaks, will soon leave Cape Town, headed west in his 36-foot Islander. Mike is also in Cape Town, soon to be sailing east aboard his 50-foot racing yacht. At the outset, many predicted Mike would easily beat Zac around the world. That's no longer a certainty and, in fact, is far from one.

In a Yachting World blog, Elaine Bunting writes of Perham, "As we reported in our January issue, he had very limited previous experience sailing this super-powerful but rather tired boat, which was a very ambitious choice for someone with comparatively little ocean experience."

Zac has piloted his boat, Intrepid, through long stretches of rough seas and his most difficult legs, presumably, are behind him.

Mike started later and had originally planned a nonstop voyage, but Cape Town is his third port of call for repairs.

When he resumes sailing, he'll sweep into the Southern Ocean, which recently wreaked havoc on experienced ocean racers in the ongoing Vendée Globe competition.

Writes Bunting: "So far, it's an impressive achievement. But I do hope he and his Dad have been watching the difficulties in the Vendée Globe race and noting that this is an especially hard year in the Southern Ocean.

Perham poses with father shortly after the teenager sailed across the Atlantic in a 28-foot boat -- when he was 14.

"When Mike continues I hope he'll shape a northerly course across the Indian and Pacific Oceans because: a) time allows it and b) should anything go wrong, the venture is going to look wilfully reckless."

To be sure, what both sailors are attempting is courageous and admirable, but no record is worth unwarranted risk. Once again, Outposts wishes both teenagers a safe journey.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Zac Sunderland and Mike Perham (right) meet in Cape Town aboard Mike's 50-foot racing yacht. Credit: Laurence Sunderland. In second photo, Perham poses with father shortly after the teenager sailed across the Atlantic in a 28-foot boat -- when he was 14. Credit: Johnny Jno-Baptiste/Associated Press

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