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

A 17-year old is on the verge of completing 24,568-mile voyage around the world.

ByABC News
July 1, 2009, 11:46 AM

July 1, 2009— -- 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.

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."