14-year-old completes solo crossing

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With his dad trailing behind, the British teen is the youngest to sail alone across the Atlantic

With his dad trailing behind, the British teen is the youngest to sail alone across the Atlantic

After 6-1/2 weeks at sea, British teenager Michael Perham has become the youngest person to sail solo across the Atlantic. Perham, who is 14, set out Nov. 18 from Gibraltar aboard his Tide 28, Cheeky Monkey, and made landfall 3,500 miles later in Antigua Jan. 3.

“It feels absolutely fantastic being back on dry land — absolutely brilliant,” Perham, of Potters Bar, England, told BBC television from the Caribbean island. Perham had aspired to single-hand the Atlantic since 2003, when British teen Sebastian Clover at age 15 became the youngest to accomplish the feat.

“I’m looking forward to a comfortable bed and a great meal. I don’t care what it is as long as it is not out of a can,” he says.

Perham’s mother, Heather, watched news reports of her son guiding Cheeky Monkey to the dock at the Antigua Yacht Club. “He is just so, so excited. He could see all the boats coming out to meet him from the harbor,” she told BBC television. “He is just amazed by the reception he has had.”

On Nov. 17, the day before getting under way, Perham wrote in an e-mail to Soundings that he was confident and excited about the opportunity to see dolphins and whales. “I love being out on the open water,” Perham says. “When you lose sight of land, it’s an absolutely fantastic feeling. I have always loved sailing, and I am always up for a challenge. I’ll try anything once.”

Perham, who began sailing at age 6, took dinghy sailing courses at the Royal Yachting Association and logged thousands of miles before beginning his Atlantic passage. Growing up, his inspiration to take up sailing came from his father, Peter.

“Being a former Merchant Navy Navigation Officer, my dad has always inspired me,” Perham says in the e-mail. “Also Dame Ellen MacArthur. Her determination, sense of adventure and her pushing to the limits has inspired me, too.”

Perham was followed across the Atlantic by his father, 46, who sailed an identical Tide 28, a trailerable offshore cruising boat with a retractable keel. Peter Perham was listed on the Tide 28 Web site (www.tide28.com) as managing director of the company. When Clover set the record in 2003 he also was accompanied by his father. “What an opportunity to share this adventure with my dad, too,” Perham says. “And it’s good to know there is support nearby.”

The Perhams hoped to make it across the Atlantic in about four weeks, but a rudder problem slowed Peter Perham. After falling behind by 70 miles, the elder Perham decided they should both stop at a marina in Lanzarote, the easternmost of the Canary Islands, Nov. 28 for repairs. They previously had made a brief stop in the Cape VerdeIslands to replace Perham’s self-steering gear and his father’s satellite phone.

In addition to the task of sailing a 28-footer across the pond, Perham kept up with schoolwork, sending it to his teachers over e-mail. He passed time by playing guitar and chatting on his satellite phone. He also wrote numerous blog entries that were posted on his Web site, www.sailmike.com .