British 17-year-old sails home to claim around-the-world solo record

By Calvin Palmer

A 17-year-old British sailor has shown that Britain can still rule the waves by becoming the youngest person to sail around the world without assistance.

Mike Perham, of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, crossed the finishing line between Lizard Point and Ushant, France, in the 50ft racing yacht at approximately 9.55 a.m. this morning to claim the record, his team said.

Perham set off on his 28,000-mile trip from Portsmouth, Hampshire, on November 15 last year and during the grueling journey tackled 50-foot waves, gale-force winds and technical problems.

He originally aimed to complete the challenge non-stop but the technical problems forced several stops, meaning his world record is the youngest solo circumnavigation with assistance.

His route also took him via the Panama Canal after he missed the weather window to sail around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. He celebrated his 17th birthday in the South Indian Ocean on March 16.

To mark today’s achievement, the Guinness Book of World Records created a new category for Perham — youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe unsupported.

He is a few months younger than Zac Sunderland, a 17-year-old from Thousand Oaks, California, who had grabbed the youngest solo crown in July when he completed a similar trip in 13 months.

Perham, who is aged 17 years and 164 days, was escorted across the finish line by the Royal Navy guard ship HMS Mersey.

“I’ve made it, I’ve made my dream come true and it feels amazing,” he said. “A big big thanks to my dad, mum, all the sponsors and every one who has helped me along the way. I can’t believe that the Royal Navy has sent HMS Mersey and a helicopter to witness my crossing the line. I feel very honored.”

His father, Peter, said: “Mike is a very special son, he has done incredibly well. He has shown that with determination, you can succeed even in the most adverse circumstances.

“He has shown the world that he is an extraordinary young man and an inspiration to us all.”

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, sent a message to the teenager on his success: “This is a remarkable and inspirational achievement in one so young, another impressive event in the rich maritime history of this island nation and of the Perham family.

“Michael’s family has strong maritime connections, with his father having been a merchant naval officer, his grandfather having served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and his great-grandfather a Royal Marine in the Crimean war.

“Michael sets a fine example showing remarkable character, grit and self discipline in completing this historic record-breaking voyage and the Royal Navy is delighted to participate in welcoming him back home to the UK as an honored and much-respected fellow seafarer.”

After crossing the finish line, Mike was joined by his father to continue sailing back for a homecoming welcome at Portsmouth on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Dutch authorities are trying to stop a 13-year-old girl from embarking on a similar voyage.

The Dutch Council for Child Protection has applied to the District Court in the city of Utrecht for Laura Dekker to be made a ward of court so that her parents, who support her plans, temporarily lose the right to make decisions about her.

Laura’s father, Dick Dekker, has already had a request for her to miss two years of school turned down.

Perham, who sailed solo across the Atlantic at the age of 14, said: “If I was asked whether an average 13-year-old girl should sail around the world I’d immediately say no. But Laura isn’t average and that’s what I feel has caused this little storm.

“What people will fail to see is that she’s an accomplished sailor already and has a lot of sailing experience.”

The Dutch court is expected to deliver its verdict on Laura tomorrow.

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and Associated Press.]

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