Page last updated at 01:22 GMT, Saturday, 15 November 2008

Teenager taking on the world solo

By Alison Harper
BBC News


A look around Mike Perham's boat

So what do you need to become a round-the-world solo skipper? Years of experience? Steely determination? Heaps of financial backing?

The answer would be a "Yes" to all three, but Michael Perham, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, is determined to succeed despite only having the determination.

Sponsorship has been hard to secure for a trip costing an estimated 200,000 and Michael has only been sailing for nine years.

He isn't even allowed to drive or vote, because he is only 16.

Speaking on board his yacht, Mike told the BBC: "I really want to get round the world. At the same time I have the aim to get the record."

That record is to become the youngest solo skipper to circumnavigate the globe without stopping.

It's a massive feat, fraught with physical and mental challenges.

"The hardest thing is being away from friends and family - you struggle," Mike said. "It's hard - people aren't made to be alone for months at a time.

"I'm really a people person, I love having fun - that's the hardest part for me."

No support boat

Mike is currently studying for a sports qualification at college and his epic adventure could be seen as very adventurous coursework - it all contributes to his final mark.

There certainly aren't many teenagers prepared to take on such extremes.

It didn't take him long to say, 'Dad, I've done the Atlantic, perhaps we could go around the world.'
Peter Perham, Mike's dad

In January 2007, aged 14, Mike became the youngest solo sailor to cross the Atlantic.

Soon after that he told his dad, Peter, he was setting his sights further afield.

Peter said: "I always thought it's what he'd want to do.

"It didn't take him long to say, 'Dad, I've done the Atlantic, perhaps we could go around the world.'"

While crossing the Atlantic, Peter followed his son in his own yacht, albeit at some distance. This time Mike is on his own and his dad can't follow.

"People who go out sailing with him say, 'Yes, he's got what it takes'," Peter said.

"I think the difference [compared to the Atlantic crossing] is if you take two boats on a trip like this, one becomes a liability to the other."

Chocolate calories

Mike will set off from Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth well-stocked with supplies and communication equipment.

On board the yacht - which carries the branding of main sponsor - there are satellite phones, cameras and the internet, although he doesn't intend to do much web surfing as the connection costs so much.

Also hidden away on board is Mike's stash of treats.

The first week is hell, but you get used to it
Mike Perham, on sleep deprivation

"I've got loads of chocolate - Dairy Milk, Toblerone, things like that are complete luxuries. Your calorie intake goes right up because you need it.

"It's so nice to know you can eat it because you'll never put weight on sailing - ever."

The circumnavigation will take Mike down the coast of Africa before heading east, crossing the South Pacific and the Southern Ocean.

It is estimated to take four and a half months - that's more than 140 days of snatched sleep, 20 minutes at a time, whenever he can get it.

"The first week is hell, but you get used to it, then it's really nice," he said. "You can wake up and feel really awake whenever you want and you can go to sleep just like that."

But Mike does have competition.

American Zac Sunderland is also 16. He's already set off, but isn't due to complete his circumnavigation until next summer and has stopped en route. If Mike's trip goes to plan, he'll steal the record from the American's grasp.

While the record may not be in the bag, the one thing which is guaranteed is Mike's determination to succeed.

It's not a challenge he's taken lightly and he has been meticulous in his preparation. His proud dad sums it up: "He's doing it because he wants to.

"It's a great demonstration that if you really set your heart on something you can make it happen."

Print Sponsor

Young sailor starts world voyage
15 Nov 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Teen sails into record books
03 Jan 07 |  Sport

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