Sat, Jul 18, 2009 - Page 18 News List

US teen youngest to sail solo around world

AP , MARINA DEL REY, CALIFORNIA

Zac Sunderland arrives at Marina del Rey, California, on Thursday. The Southern California teenager became the youngest person to sail solo around the world when he returned to Marina del Rey after a 13-month voyage.

PHOTO: AP

Zac Sunderland, a 17-year-old American, become the youngest person to sail around the world alone when he docked in Marina del Rey on Thursday, completing a 45,000km trip that began last year.

His family, friends and hundreds of onlookers cheered as his 36-foot (11m) boat Intrepid entered the harbor.

Also on hand was a team from the American Sailing Association, which certified his accomplishment.

The shaggy-haired sailor later gave a whoop of joy before addressing the crowd.

“It’s been a crazy 13 months,” said Sunderland, hugging his younger siblings.

Sunderland was 16 when he left the coastal community west of Los Angeles on June 14 last year — a voyage that included encounters with pirates and wild storms.

His father, shipwright Laurence Sunderland, met him at various stops and helped him repair damage to the boat.

The younger Sunderland mainly ate freeze-dried and canned foods, with one of his sponsors providing fresh vegetables. His father’s company, Sunderland’s Yacht Management & Shipwrights, was his main sponsor.

Sunderland said his toughest challenge was the sleep deprivation when his boat broke down and he needed to guide it through the night.

During the leg from Australia to the Coco Islands, he said pirates followed him and he was forced to call Australian authorities to scare them off.

“I had this boat following me all over the place and circling,” Sunderland said.

He said he was humbled by meeting people around the world who live in poor conditions.

“In other countries, 13 people are living in a dirt hut and when you meet them, they’re the most kindest, generous people,” the young sailor said.

He also encouraged adults to trust more in the abilities of teenagers.

“There’s so much more potential to what young people can do. Go out there and do your own thing,” he told the crowd.

He beat a record held by Australian David Dicks, who was over 18 when he completed the voyage in 1996.

But even now, Sunderland’s record was being challenged: British sailor Mike Perham, a few months younger, was attempting the solo circumnavigation in a bigger, faster boat.

But Sunderland is philosophical.

“I really don’t care,” he said. “Someone’s going to beat it some day.”

Sunderland said he hasn’t determined his next trip.

“I’m hoping to set off on my next adventure soon — Mt Everest or down to the Arctic Circle,” Sunderland said.

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