Fourteen-Year-Old Sails Atlantic Solo

He is only 14, and while most boys his age spend their vacation playing video games or riding their bicycles, Michael Perham set out to break a world record. He wanted to be the youngest sailor to cross the Atlantic…solo!

And he made it.

Today, while his schoolmates in Hatfield, England, were in their second day of class after the holiday break, Perham arrived in Antigua, an island paradise in the Caribbean.

Perham spent six weeks of solitary sailing, traveling 3,500 miles of open water from Gibraltar to the St. John's port in Antigua to break the record held by another Briton: Sebastian Clover.

Perham's publicist, Kizzi Nkwocha, who followed Perham every step of the way, said that "almost everything you could imagine going wrong, did go wrong -- mechanical failure, technical failure, shark-infested waters, waves the size of skyscrapers."

Perham was supported by his father, Peter Perham, 47, another sailing passionate, who followed him on a sister boat and communicated with him regularly.

But having his father behind him did not keep Perham from having to solve challenges on his own.

"Michael lost sight of his father for a while and had to at times rely only on his instincts," said Nkwocha. "Most men would have given up at those stages, but Michael is incredibly determined and resilient."

Perham also enjoyed the support of a sports hero, Ellen MacArthur, another British solo sailor, who, two years ago, broke the record for the fastest solo tour of the world.

"It is no small feat to cross an ocean and you have to be prepared for anything and everything," wrote MacArthur on Perham's blog.

At home, not everyone was keen on letting young Perham go on his adventure.

Last spring, when Peter Perham asked his son's school for permission to skip classes for several weeks, the education board reluctantly accepted, admitting that it was a unique chance for Perham to learn and grow.

"It was an opportunity in itself," said Stuart Philips, Perham's head teacher. "It would be a huge learning curve for him. He would learn resilience and dealing with solitude."

"The success on the seas would have spun off to his academic studies," Philips said. "Success raises self-esteem and will maybe make him more determined."

But Philips and other teachers at Hatfield School would not let young Perham skip classes without giving him a bit of homework, or "boatwork."

Perham's teachers gave him some work to do onboard and provided him with guidance about the content which would be covered while he was away.

Perham will soon need to dive into the calculus and grammar books, but today was a day of triumph and celebration.

Ann Marie Martin, who works with the parks commissioner for Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua and sees boats and proud sailors arrive everyday, said that this was a special day for the island.

"I have been at Nelson's Dockyard for 20 years," said Martin, "and Michael had the largest welcome I have seen so far."

Martin said there were 200 people to greet him and "lots of children." For once, the children could welcome a champion who was almost their age. "They were so happy to see him," said Martin.

When interviewed by the BBC, Perham said that what he missed the most were his family and friends.

Despite this warm welcome in Antigua, Perham will still have to wait before he can see his mother -- she stayed at home with Perham's 16-year-old sister, Fiona.

After six weeks of sailing rough seas, his mother and schoolmates will surely find him a very different person.

"When Michael left for Antigua, he was a young boy -- now he is a man," said Nkwocha.

Zoe Magee, Laura Westmacott and Fabiola Antezana contributed to this report.

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