Rival teenagers depart in 'youngest sailor' bid

The race for the title ‘youngest person to sail around the world’ that is currently being played out upon the world’s oceans has reached the start of what promises to be an exciting end game as the rival teenagers bidding for the record departed their respective ports yesterday.

Mike Perham, 17, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, left Auckland, New Zealand, at about 10.30 his time (22.30 UTC last night) and set off past Great Barrier Island and out into the Pacific Ocean. At around the same time, Zac Sunderland, the slightly older 17-year-old, departed Panama (yesterday afternoon his time) for the passage north to his home port of Marina del Rey, California.

Zac is sailing the slower boat, a 36 ft Islander,Intrepid, but has by far the shorter distance to go – around 3,000 miles. So long as he does not run into too much trouble with the hurricane season, he should arrive home late June and claim the title. However, as Mike is about 100 days younger than Zac, the American may well find that his stardom is short-lived. Mike has to sail his much faster Open 50,Totallymoney.com, either around Cape Horn and back to Falmouth, UK, or via the Panama Canal – distances in excess of 11,000 nautical miles – in less than 100 days.

Both the teenagers – who became friends when they met in Cape Town South Africa – were in port affecting repairs to their boats. Mike, who has endured a catalogue of mechanical problems since leaving Falmouth last November, was waiting on a bearing for his starboard rudder to arrive from France. Zac required a new mainsail.

Mike reports on his website: ‘My progress wasn’t great at first with a boat speed of only 3.5 knots, luckily the tide was with me though so the speed over ground was up to a fraction over 4knots. I was going slowly fast!

‘The wind eventually filled in a bit more and currently as I write this we’ve got around 11knots of it. There should be some more right offshore, though ? It’s good to be back out here and so, bring on the Pacific!’

Zac writes on his blog: ‘I dropped the dock lines early this afternoon after an awesome experience in Panama ? I don’t have time tonight with the lightning storms and ships for a long blog but wanted to let you all know that I am officially on my way home.’