California teen becomes youngest to sail world solo

Thu Jul 16, 2009 7:33pm EDT
 
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 17-year-old U.S. mariner piloted his battered sailboat into a Southern California harbor on Thursday to complete a grueling 13-month voyage and become the youngest person to sail around the world alone.

Sandy-haired teenager Zac Sunderland arrived in Marina Del Rey aboard his 36-foot (11-meter) sloop Intrepid at about 10 a.m. local time. During his 28,000-nautical-mile (52,000-km) journey, he braved storms, equipment failures, close calls with freighters and a run-in with suspected pirates.

"It's been a crazy 13 months and ... yeah, it's awesome to finally get back here," Sunderland, of Thousand Oaks, California, said after he was welcomed home by a flotilla of well-wishers.

Fewer than 250 people have sailed solo around the globe, with three times that many scaling the top of Mount Everest, according to the American Sailing Association, which certified Sunderland's feat.

He left Marina Del Rey, just south of Los Angeles, on June 14, 2008, and celebrated his 17th birthday at sea while off Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

His return was delayed near the end of his voyage when his single-masted boat sustained a broken bulkhead in rough seas off Mexico, forcing him to stop at Puerto Vallarta long enough for his father, Laurence, a British-born sailor and shipwright, to fly in to make repairs.

'LOAD YOUR GUN UP'

An earlier storm in the Indian Ocean kept Sunderland up for four days and nights, struggling to keep his vessel on course in gale-force winds that heavily damaged the boat's rigging.   Continued...

 
<p>Zac Sunderland, 17, poses for a portrait aboard his 36-foot (11-meter) sloop Intrepid at the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, California July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>