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Zac Sunderland is finally sailing home, no small thanks to dear old dad

June 29, 2009 |  8:10 am


Zac Sunderland, 17, is finally in the home stretch. He made his final stop (if the sailing gods comply) last week in the Puerto Vallarta area, where the 36-foot Intrepid underwent extensive repairs.

His return to Marina del Rey, from which he departed on June 14, 2008, on a quest to become the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the planet, probably will occur toward the end of next week.

I had the pleasure of visiting Zac and his dad and grandmother in Mexico and will share more information in the coming days. One observation I'm compelled to share now is that Zac, as adept a sailor as he has become, would not be where he is if it weren't for the help of his parents -- perhaps most notably from his shipbuilder dad.

I witnessed Laurence Sunderland perform a minor miracle in Paradise Village Marina. He somehow was able to remove and rebuild almost an entire bulkhead, in sweltering conditions inside the vessel's tiny cabin, in less than two days. It was more remarkable considering the location and time spent scouring the region for parts.

Zac helped with repairs, of course, but he was trying to get some rest despite conducting interviews for ABC and its upcoming "Nightline" piece, and for yours truly and L.A. Times' photographer-videographer Al Seib.


This is to take nothing from what Zac is accomplishing. His task is to sail, and he has battled adversity around the world, always seeming to maintain an even keel, so to speak. His last three weeks were spent beneath a broiling sun with no refrigeration, nothing cool to drink and nothing savory to eat.

Intrepid was mired in doldrums, then battered by remnants of the season's first tropical depression. Zac, after altering the rigging to relieve pressure from the mast, piloted the vessel into Puerto Vallarta just ahead of an advancing hurricane. The boat looked as though it had been through a fight, but it left presumably good as new.

We watched Zac sail into the rose-colored sunset, between the Tres Mariettas and toward the Sea of Cortez, from a beachfront restaurant in Punta de Mita. It was a lonely sight, but a pretty picture.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Zac Sunderland sails out of the marina at Paradise Village aboard a newly repaired and cleaned 36-foot sailboat appropriately named Intrepid. Credit: Pete Thomas / Los Angeles Times