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Solo sailor Zac Sunderland survives heavy seas, nears halfway point

October 14, 2008 | 11:27 am


Zac Sunderland is expected to limp into the Cocos (Keeling) Islands later today, after enduring 25-knot winds and 10-foot seas for more than 24 hours.

His 36-foot boat, aptly named Intrepid, is experiencing engine problems and has a broken tiller. It will require sailing mastery simply to become safely moored at the reef-strewn Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

From there, after making repairs, the Thousand Oaks 16-year-old, who is hoping to become the youngest person to sail alone around the world, will travel to Mauritius and celebrate completing half of his amazing journey.

When I spoke with Zac last week, after his false-alarm pirate scare, he told me he was finally able to land a large tuna and enjoy some fresh fare. “I don’t have a freezer on the boat, or even a fridge,” he said. “So I ate that fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days. I had it every single way: sashimi, breaded and with teriyaki marinade.”

He said that on one sweltering, still afternoon, he contemplated diving into the ocean for a swim, but as he prepared to jump in he looked down and saw a large shark swimming alongside his boat.

Asked where he’ll be when he turns 17, on Nov. 29, he consulted his chart and said he’s scheduled to spend it in the middle of the sea.

“But I’m going to bend that schedule and spend it in port, maybe Durban,” he assured. “Because I don’t want to be in the middle of the ocean on my birthday.”

Meanwhile, his expedition costs, especially with needed vessel repairs, are adding up, and Zac’s parents are experiencing severe funding issues.

They invite admirers of Zac to attend a fundraiser in Marina del Rey—Zac’s point of departure and eventual return—on Oct. 26 from 3-6 p.m. at the Organic Panificio restaurant at 4211 Admiralty Way.

Laurence and Marianne Sunderland will recap his journey thus far, with video and photos. Marianne will attempt to reach her son via satellite phone for an on-the-spot interview. Cost for adults is $20 pre-paid, or $27 at the door. Cost for children 12 and younger is $10. There will be a silent auction, light appetizers and a cash bar.

To reserve a spot visit Zac’s website and click on the Store link, or call (818) 703-1154.

Zac is both a good kid and brave young man, and he could sure use your support.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Zac Sunderland pictured inside his sailboat before departing from Marina del Rey in June. He is currently limping into the Cocos Keeling Islands with a broken tiller after a bout with strong winds and 10-foot seas. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times