If a couple kids have their way, 18-year-old solo sailor Mike Perham might lose his record. Photo by Matt Dinnery
Over the summer a remarkable young American, 17-year old Zac Sunderland, set the record for youngest person to sail alone around the world. Less than two months later, Mike Perham, a slightly younger 17-year old hailing from Britain, broke that record.
“I’ve made it, I’ve made my dream come true and it feels amazing. A big big thanks to my dad, mum, all the sponsors and every one who has helped me along the way,” Perham said, just prior to finishing his voyage.
No one can take away his achievement, but at least two even younger teenagers have their sights set on snatching his title. 16-year-old Jessica Watson of Australia and 13-year-old Laura Dekker of the Netherlands both intend to take Perham’s place in the record books, yet, both have run into problems.
Watson literally rode her yacht into a cargo ship and has since been asked by the government of Queensland to abort her attempt.
Citing safety concerns regarding her age, the Dutch government halted Dekkers bid to sail around the world before it began. She’s currently meeting with psychologists who will decide whether she is capable of undertaking the demanding journey.
Dekker’s mom, who has expressed reservations about the endeavor, says her daughter can “sail like the devil,” but skill is not always enough to successfully traverse the high seas. In 1999 32-year old professional sailor Giovanni Soldini rescued a senior competitor, Isabelle Autissier, during a solo sail race around the world after her yacht capsized.
A year early, however, Soldini’s attempt to break a transatlantic crossing record with a crew of four ended in tragedy when a gale led to the death of his close friend Andrea Romanelli.
Few would argue that sailing, especially sailing alone, can be a dangerous adventure, but it’s also clear that youngsters who accomplish a voyage of this magnitude have a defining achievement and memory they will treasure forever. The question: is there an age minimum for this kind of challenge?
Are these teenage women too young to circumnavigate the world alone? If you’re a parent, would you let your child tackle something as ambitious as a global solo sail? Discuss!