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A simple lunch for three - the solo circumnavigators

by Nancy Knudsen on 15 Feb 2009
Zac and Mike comparing notes on Mike’s boat TotallyMoney - photo by Laurence Sunderland SW
It was just a simple lunch for three sailors in Cape Town, a lunch which came about because they just happened to be there at the same time. If they seemed to have a lot to talk about it might have been because they are three solo sailors, currently circumnavigating the world. The extraordinary thing (not that the fact of three solo circumnavigators meeting accidentally in Cape Town isn't extraordinary enough) is their ages.

One is just sixteen, one seventeen, and the other is seventy-four. They also hail from opposing ends of the globe. The sixteen-year-old, Michael Perham, is English, the seventeen-year-old, Zac Sunderland, is from the USA, and the seventy-four-year-old, Minaru Saito, is from Japan.

Both Michael and Zac are on their first circumnavigation, so it could be that Minaru Saito was doing most of the talking. After all, he is on his eighth circumnavigation and expects to turn 75 during the journey.

Michael set out to attempt a solo circumnavigation non-stop and unassisted, in a high-speed racing yacht with high profile sponsorship. After multiple problems with the yacht during the sail down the African coast, this has since been modified to a 'simple' solo circumnavigation. Zac bought his own yacht with savings, has since acquired a little sponsorship, but the journey has been more relaxed in its concept.

As for Minaru Saito, he just can't seem to stay at home. Having suffered from TB as a child, he was always interested in adventurous undertakings, but didn't begin serious sailing until he was 39 years of age. He has participated in several round-world races, won multiple awards and medals for his prowess and seamanship. He is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest sailing circumnavigator.

The two young solo sailors, who found much in common in their accidental simultaneous berthing in Cape Town, are vying for the 'youngest-around' title. As Zac is 108 days older than Michael, he will have to complete his journey 108 days earlier. As Michael is in a much faster boat, it's anybody's guess who will take the title.

However, no matter who 'wins', there's a young sailor, preparing now, who could wrest it away in the not too distant future.

Australian fifteen-year-old Jessica Watson has her heart set on being the youngest solo circumnavigator, and will set off on her journey in November this year from Mooloolaba. Born in 1993, she just may do it!

Jessica has recently skippered a yacht across the Tasman, and is now sailing south along the Australian coast, all in rehearsal for the solo attempt at the end of the year.

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