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Old 06-14-2008, 07:01 AM   #1
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US teen sailor takes on the world

Zac Sunderland

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Zac will cross treacherous waters in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans

A 16-year-old from Los Angeles is hoping to break a world record by becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Zac Sunderland will set off from Marina del Rey, California, on Saturday to make the year-long journey in a 36ft boat he bought with his own savings.

The record is currently held by David Dicks, an Australian who completed the trip when he was 18 years, 41 days old.

Zac's first stop will be the Marshall Islands, 4,000 miles (6,437km) away.

The 40,000-mile (64,400-km) route will then take him across the Pacific to Papua New Guinea and Australia, and from there across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius and Madagascar.

After rounding the Cape of Good Hope he will traverse the South Atlantic ocean, before navigating the Panama Canal and heading north back to California.

Zac knows every inch of his boat. He has to - it will be his home for at least the next year, as he aims to become the youngest person to sail around the globe alone, and claim a world record.

He will cross treacherous waters in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans before returning home to Los Angeles - a dangerous and long journey.

"You have to be careful with falling with the water when you're out there because there's no-one else to turn around and pick you up," he says. "If you fall in, you're pretty much gone."

To help him deal with the loneliness of being on his own, Zac will have an iridium phone that will allow him to speak to his friends back home and send e-mails.

"I've got a lot of books and work through a lot of those," he says. "I also have to finish up my last year of high school, so I'll be doing some school work on the trip."

During the voyage Zac will sleep strapped into a narrow bunk, in case of stormy seas. He will eat freeze-dried food and fish he catches.

But he is no stranger to boats - his parents cruised the Pacific for three years with their young family and fully support his dream.

"As far as wondering about something tragic, I don't have that worry. I think we have taken all the necessary safety precautions," says his mother, Marianne.

"He has all the latest equipment and his own father outfitted his boat. As far as that goes, we've managed all those risks."

Zac will stop along the way - he is keen, he says, to see other cultures.

If he returns before January 2010, he will beat the current record. But whenever he returns, he will have had the greatest adventure of his young life.


By Rajesh Mirchandani

BBC News, Los Angeles
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