A British teenager cast off alone yesterday in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail non-stop around the world single-handed. Michael Perham, 16, hopes to arrive back in Portsmouth harbour in time to celebrate his 17th birthday next March. In doing so, he would add another record to the one he set two years ago by sailing the Atlantic solo at the age of 14. For that voyage he was shadowed by his father, Peter, in another boat, but there will be no such safety net on this venture. Too young to drive or vote and unable to afford more than an emergency phone and internet contact with the outside world, he will be on his own, fortified by a large supply of chocolate. “I have dreamt about doing the world trip and now I can’t wait to live that dream,” he said before leaving yesterday.
The first week of a solo voyage was “real hell”, he said. “But you get used to it — then it’s really nice. You can wake up and feel really awake whenever you want and you can go to sleep just like that.” Michael has been sailing since he was seven. “The hardest thing is being away from friends and family, you struggle. People aren’t made to be alone for months at a time and I’m very much a people person. I love having fun. That’s the hardest part for me,” he said. His hugely ambitious plan to circumnavigate the globe was nurtured in the aftermath of his successful transatlantic crossing. “It didn’t take him long to say: ‘Dad, we’ve done the Atlantic, perhaps we could go round the world,’” said Peter Perham, a chartered quantity surveyor. “People who go out sailing with him say he’s got what it takes to complete the trip. The difference with the Atlantic crossing is that if you take two boats on a trip, one can be a liability to the other. He’s doing this because he wants to. It’s a great demonstration that if you really set your heart on something you can make it happen,” he added.
Michael will attempt his record in a 50ft boat named TotallyMoney.com after his main sponsor. He set sail with with good luck messages scrawled on the housing of his satellite system, including one which said: “Be safe. Be strong. Be brave. I love you,” from his girlfriend Beckie. Any spare time on board will be dedicated to his coursework for the sports diploma he is undertaking at Oaklands College Athletics Academy in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Gary Anderson, director of performance at the academy, said: “Michael is a truly inspirational young man. We will be keeping a close eye on his progress.“ I will be making sure all his assignments still make it on time.” As some of Michael’s friends study for their A-levels, he will battle subzero temperatures, 40ft waves and force eight winds during the epic 25,000-mile voyage. His route will take him across the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Africa before he heads east across the Southern Ocean and the Pacific and back home round Cape Horn. Psychologists have helped to prepare him for the challenges ahead and he said his experience crossing the Atlantic will also stand him in good stead. The current holder of the youngest nonstop circumnavigation record is Jesse Martin, who arrived home in Melbourne in 1999 aged 18. (Source: Times online)