Teen to Attempt Solo Sail Around the Globe Zac Sunderland will set off on June 14 from Los Angeles for a big adventure: The 16-year-old hopes to set a record as the youngest person to sail alone around the globe. He and his parents speak with host Alex Chadwick.
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Teen to Attempt Solo Sail Around the Globe

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Teen to Attempt Solo Sail Around the Globe

Teen to Attempt Solo Sail Around the Globe

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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes, we begin a new summer travel series with some ideas for short trips you can finance with a little of the money from your government economic stimulus check.


Sounds like fun. I'm Alex Chadwick. Madeleine, remember when I skipped out of the editorial meeting the other day?

BRAND: For some important business?

CHADWICK: I went over to Marina Del Rey. Now, this is an enormous cluster of boats, you know, on the western edge of Los Angeles, where the Pacific Ocean begins. I went to meet a 16-year-old kid who is undertaking an extraordinary journey.

(Soundbite of saw)

CHADWICK: Sounds more like a lumber yard, doesn't it? But this is the boat yard. This is where we came to find Zac Sunderland setting off Saturday to become the youngest man ever to sail around the world all by himself. Zac, this is the boat?

Mr. ZAC SUNDERLAND (Attemptee, Youngest Man to Sail Around the World): That's the boat, and it's an (unintelligible) 36 - about 36 feet long and about 11 feet half beam.

CHADWICK: Zac's boat is called the Intrepid, white hull, white cabin, white mast, and at the moment, not quite ready. A half dozen people are working with saws, cables and tools, putting it together.

Unidentified Man: We're going to need something solid.

CHADWICK: So this is - you're really still working on this thing.

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Yeah, just tying up all the loose ends, you know. But we'll be ready for Saturday.

CHADWICK: Where did you get the idea to do this?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: I always kind of have the desire, you know, to go out and do something amazing in the ocean, you know, and do something - set a record maybe, you know, from Robin Graham who went around in 1965. He was 16 when he left and took about five years going around the world. And I had his book when I was a little kid, you know, his big picture book of all the pictures he took on this trip and it was kind of a big inspiration to get out there and it's amazing - the pictures he took of all these, you know, untouched places in the world and I've always kind of wanted to do it.

So I was looking into, you know, more the dates and when I'd have to do it to break the record of the youngest to be around the world and I was thinking now, I got to move on this sooner. I have to be back by around 16, 17. So I bought the boat and started working on it. We've been working on it ever since, about four or five months and it's all ready to go, almost - you know, on Saturday.

CHADWICK: Is that what you're going to do? You're going to try to set the record for the youngest person ever to sail around the world?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Yeah. The record right now is 18 in 41 days. So I'm hoping to break that - back here while I'm still 17. And yeah, so just get around and I have about a year, year and a half...

CHADWICK: How old are you now exactly?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: I'm 16 and a half.

CHADWICK: Sixteen and a half?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Yeah, this month. Sixteen and a half.

(Soundbite of cell phone ringing)

CHADWICK: Zac's phone just keeps ringing. There is so much to do to get ready to sail around the world. His boat cost him 6,000 dollars a few months ago - money that he had earned. He spent a lot more since then, thanks to dad and friends. The Intrepid is completely refitted. Now, it's got new navigation and weather equipment, a satellite phone in case he gets in trouble. He's got weeks worth of food, 75 gallons of water. When he leaves tomorrow, his first stop will be 2,000 miles west of Hawaii, the Marshall Islands. That will be a month, maybe a little more. And then, he keeps going alone. The weather is one thing. You're sailing through parts of the world where, you know, you read about pirates. Have you thought about that?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I rerouted some of my course because of pirates. Actually, there's a lot of pirates here on the Red Sea right now and it's actually very growing - the piracy rate and very real. So you have to be mindful, you know, talk to other cruisers before you go.

CHADWICK: Are you going to sail around the Cape at the south of Africa or you're going to go through the Suez Canal?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: I'm going to the Cape of Good Hope, yeah.

CHADWICK: You are?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Around the Cape of Good Hope, yeah.

CHADWICK: Well, the weather there is pretty tough.

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Yeah. It's probably the worst weather I'm going to have in my trip around the Cape of Good Hope. So I just got to sit in Australia or Christmas Island and wait for the weather window and then get in, get out pretty fast.

CHADWICK: How about South America?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: I'm not going to Cape Horn. I'm going through the Panama Canal.

CHADWICK: You are going through the canal.



(Soundbite of cell phone ringing)

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Sorry about this.

CHADWICK: You got another call here. Zac is too busy. He's got phone calls. He's got a lot to do. We are going to duck inside a cabin cruiser that's moored right beside the Intrepid and talk to someone who is waiting for us.

Mrs. MARYANNE SUNDERLAND: My name is Maryanne Sunderland. I'm Zac Sunderland's mom. He's currently attempting to be the youngest man to sail around the world alone.

CHADWICK: Zac is the oldest of Maryanne's seven children. Her husband manages yachts. They're a sailing family, the kids home schooled sometimes on their longer voyages. Boy, do they know their geography. Still, I have a friend who is the parent of a boy younger than Zac by a few years, who said there's only one question I want you to ask his parents. Are you crazy?

Mrs. SUNDERLAND: Well, you know, I think a lot of people who aren't familiar with sailing and the ocean think of it as being very dangerous. But really - as far as Zac's age is concern, you know, he has been sailing for many, many years. He's a better sailor than he is a driver. For sure, you know, I feel much safer with him on a boat than driving in our car.

CHADWICK: He's your oldest child.


CHADWICK: Aren't you going to miss him?

Mrs. SUNDERLAND: Yeah. Yeah, he's a lot of fun. Our younger kids really look up to him and you know, he's always holding one of the little ones and they're chasing him around. So it's going to be an interesting change in the dynamic, definitely.

(Soundbite of saw)

CHADWICK: Out on the dock, a half dozen older men work just frantically against that Saturday deadline. Their contractors are boat mechanics, all volunteers who know Zac's dad or just like the kid and his daring dream. There's a guy - somebody says he's 80, fiddling with something up at the very top of the mast. That's a long way up. I wouldn't go there. And here is Zac, 16. I took a picture of him. It's at npr.org. You can see, his hair is too long, his face is already dark from being outdoors. It'll get darker. He'll get older, different. So Zac, what do you want to do when you grow up?

Mr. SUNDERLAND: I don't know. I mean, I'm kind of setting up for the boating deal. I mean, once I get back with this, I'll have a bit of a reputation in the boating industry. So I'll be able to break into that pretty easily or maybe even keep doing something with adventure and some stuff. You know, I mean, maybe go into another big adventure somewhere. I don't know. I have plenty of time to think about it over my trip. But you know, yeah, I'm kind of liking this and see how it works out. You never know where else it's going to take, you know.

CHADWICK: Yeah. Zac Sunderland setting off to solo around the world. Possibly, he's the youngest person ever to accomplish that. Good luck.

Mr. SUNDERLAND: Thank you.

(Soundbite of saw)

(Soundbite of song "Sail Away")

Mr. RANDY NEWMAN: (Singing) Sail away, sail away We will grow (unintelligible)

CHADWICK: Remember, pictures of Zac and more info about his round-the-world voyage at npr.org.

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