July 17, 2009 in Nation/World

Californian becomes youngest to sail solo around world

Shaya Tayefe Mohajer Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Zac Sunderland arrives at Marina del Rey in Los Angeles on Thursday. He departed there 13 months ago on his voyage.
(Full-size photo)

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. – A 17-year-old Californian Thursday became the youngest person to sail around the world alone.

Zac Sunderland docked in this coastal community west of Los Angeles, completing a 28,000-mile trip that began last year. His family, friends and hundreds of onlookers cheered as his 36-foot Intrepid boat entered the harbor.

Also on hand was a team from the American Sailing Association, which certified his accomplishment.

The shaggy-haired sailor later gave a whoop of joy before addressing the crowd.

“It’s been a crazy 13 months,” said Sunderland, hugging his younger siblings.

Sunderland was 16 when he left Marina del Rey on June 14, 2008 – a voyage that included encounters with pirates and wild storms.

His father, shipwright Laurence Sunderland, met him at various stops and helped him repair damage to the boat while Zac surfed.

The younger Sunderland mainly ate freeze-dried and canned foods, with one of his sponsors providing fresh vegetables. His father’s company, Sunderland’s Yacht Management & Shipwrights, was his main sponsor.

Sunderland said his toughest challenge was the sleep deprivation when his boat broke down and he needed to guide it through the night.

During the leg from Australia to the Coco Islands, he said that pirates followed him and he was forced to call Australian authorities to scare them off.

“I had this boat following me all over the place and circling,” Sunderland said.

He beat a record held by an Australian who was over 18 when he completed the voyage in 1996.

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