Analysing offshore mind set


People might say of Mike Perham, the diminutive 17-year-old who is heading into the Southern Ocean in winter alone aboard a boat big enough for four gorillas, that he wants his head tested.

Well, I can report that he has! The sailing schoolboy has been psycho-analysed by a sports psychologist to make sure he’s up to the challenge.

When I went to meet his father, Peter, last month at their Potters Bar home, he told me that to make sure Mike wasn’t just dreaming about a world record, his father ‘interrogated’ Mike before he went off seeking funding. ‘I had to make sure he really wanted to do it. It’s one thing saying you want to do it and another actually doing it.’ Peter had his son psycho-analysed by sports psychologist, Caroline Heaney, whose company mission statement reads: ‘Never give up, never give in. In the end you will win.’

‘She asked him questions and got the reasoning behind the answers,’ said Peter, ‘ but I also briefed friends and relatives of ours to ask him questions about this challenge. I needed to know he was up for this. There was too much at stake to back out I had to make sure he was totally passionate about it.’

Mike was expected to be back in Portsmouth in March, now he will not get home until July, missing his girlfriend Becky’s high school prom in June. ‘If everything looks good for the Horn, he’ll go for it,’ said Peter.

Of his weather router, Mike Broughton, Peter said: ‘He is brilliant, although there have been a lot of false starts for him with reports he has calculated which then don’t get used because of the delays.’

Mike Broughton, told me : ‘My hunch is that it’s leaning more towards the Horn. I have a sixteen-year-old son and if he was in Mike’s shoes I’d rather he went round the Horn than get stuck off windless Panama. I wouldn’t say that if I wasn’t so impressed with Mike’s seamanship and prudence: he is head and shoulders above many who are vastly more experienced than him.’

In the front room of the Perham home, Peter is keen to show me an excerpt from Antarctic sailor Skip Novak’s website which states that the weather in the Southern Ocean during winter is more predictable than in summer. It is hoped that when Mike has to make his decision he will be getting a weather window to round Cape Horn. If not then his father is hopeful he could either tuck into the Magellan Strait or the Drake Channel for shelter before proceeding. But he will not take any risk – if the predicted weather is severe – Mike will head north.