Youngest Person to Sail Around the World Alone Battles Storms, Pirates

PHOTO: Zac Sunderland, youngest person to sail around the world alone.

Sailing the globe alone is one of the world's great tests of endurance -- a trip so difficult it's been called a voyage for madmen.

But Zac Sunderland is no madman. While he looks like a typical Southern California teenager, the 17-year old is on the verge of completing a 24,568-mile voyage around the world, which would make him the youngest person ever to complete a solo sail around the world.

"Don't know if I'm going to live to see this thing through, but hopefully, everything will go well," he said to a video camera he uses to record his personal diary during the journey.

Part of the sailing community since childhood, Sunderland followed the far-fetched dream to sail around the world for years. He bought a 36-foot long sailboat, which he named the Intrepid, and set sail from Marina del Rey, Calif., in June 2008.

"I thought I was gone out there at least three times I think. But I'm sailing around the world. ... it's not as easy, it's not like riding a bike," he said.

Teenage Sailor
null

Sailing the world is an exclusive club. Sunderland said that less than a handful of people under the age of 20 have done it, and he would be the first person under 18 to do so.

On the high seas, his journey along the way has been documented with a video camera. His first stop was Hawaii, where Sunderland had time to surf during his stay at port.

Surviving on freeze-dried food, Sunderland said he has lost 25 pounds over the past year.

"It's been a nightmare out there. Got about 25-30 knots, and a big sail that can't be controlled. It's pretty crazy. I'm pretty tired too," he said.

Heavy seas have drenched and shorted out just about every piece of equipment on board more than once, leading to what Sunderland said is the most painful and challenging part of the trip -- sleep deprivation.

Sunderland was forced to wake up every 20 minutes or so to keep watch for other ships, which robbed him of sleep -- sometimes for days at a time.

"Didn't sleep last night or night before that," he recorded himself saying on the boat. "Don't know how long that is because I'm so tired I can't think very well."

Close Calls at Sea: Mother Nature's Fierce Squalls

After the Intrepid suffered near catastrophic damage while being slammed by high seas along the edges of a hurricane, it docked in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, last week for two days.

His father, Lawrence Sunderland flew in from California for repairs, helping to fix a cracked bulkhead that had the potential to separate the boat's entire deck from the hull.

"I didn't have any gray hair on my head when he left, so I've gone gray overnight," his father said. "It's been a good year. It's a mixed bag. There have been four times when we thought Zac was in serious danger during the year. That definitely gave us cause for concern."

Close calls at sea come with fierce blows from Mother Nature in the form of enormous squalls. One storm snapped the "boom," a critical part of the boat that holds the main sail. Sunderland recorded his reaction with his camera.

"The whole boat just got soaked in five seconds," he said. "I was hand steering with all the strength to keep the boat running downwind. ... I'm going to go do a damage check."

One night, a huge container ship the size of a building nearly steamed right over Sunderland.

"A 100-ton piece of medal that's just ramming through the ocean that's going 20-knots can cut my boat in half and not even know it," he said.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...