SOLO SENSATION — I
"Yup, I must be back in L.A." After stepping off 'Intrepid', the shaggy-haired record-breaker faces a media onslaught.
His campaign was truly a family effort that they all can be proud of. one of Zac's childhood heroes was Robin Lee Graham, who left Southern California at age 16 in 1965 and singlehanded around the world aboard a Lapworth 24 named Dove. (For the record, he actually completed the final legs of the trip aboard the Luders 33 Return of Dove.) Although Zac has never met his reclusive hero, he credits Graham's feat as a major inspiration. In fact, Zac's route loosely followed Graham's: west-about via the Cape of Good Hope and the Panama Canal. Australian solo circumnavigator Jesse Martin is also acknowledged as a major influence. He currently holds the record as the youngest (18) to complete a nonstop, unassisted rounding via the 'great capes' (of the Southern Ocean). Those who savor such statistics are quick to point out that Zac's route, largely through the tropics, with many stops where he received extensive assistance,
pales in comparison to Martin's. That may be true, but from the outset, Zac's parents, Laurence and Marianne, were clear that they simply were not comfortable sending their son on Martin's more ambitious — and dangerous — route. And we can't say we blame them. From the beginning, Zac's simple goal was to round the planet safely and return home at a younger age than anyone had done previously. And that's precisely what he did. He takes the 'youngest around' title from another Aussie, David Dicks, who completed a solo lap in 1996 at age 18 and 41 days (slightly younger than Jesse Martin). Early on, Laurence and Marianne endured criticism from self-righteous bloggers who charged that they were irresponsible — some even said negligent — for letting their son set off to sea alone. But we'd bet those critics were not sailors. If they had been, they'd have realized that Zac's life-long boating savvy, combined with Intrepid's full range of modern safety and communications gear, his ocean crossings were probably substantially less lifethreatening than driving on L.A. freeways. That said, we're reminded that Zac doesn't actually have a driver's license yet! ac bought Intrepid (exNantucket Sleigh Ride) for $6,000 with his own savings. His father and friends then helped him do an exhaustive refit, including installation of a new diesel engine and a custom hard dodger. The beefy hull may be old, but she's now equipped with a high-tech war chest of electronics: an AIS, two radars, a powerful computer with navigation and weather forecasting software, both builtRICH ROBERTS
he oldest of seven children, and son of a professional shipwright, Zac grew up around boats, and lived aboard for nine — now, make that 10 — of his 17 years. When he was younger, the
family spent three years cruising Mexico and the California coast. Back then, and later, during boat deliveries with his dad, he learned and practiced marlinspike seamanship and navigation. Being a 'boat kid', it's no surprise that
n a scene reminiscent of Sir Francis Chichester's homecoming to England aboard Gipsy Moth IV in 1967, 17-yearold solo circumnavigator Zac Sunderland was greeted by hundreds of well-wishers and a blitz of reporters July 16, when he returned to his Marina del Rey homeport. Upon arrival, he became the youngest sailor to round the planet alone by any route. From several miles offshore, dozens of boats escorted Zac's 1972 Islander 36 Intrepid toward the marina, all jockeying for position so those aboard could catch a firsthand glimpse or snap a photo of the handsome, shaggy-haired sailor who'd become their hero during his 13month around-the-world odyssey. Via Zac's frequent blog postings, and both national and international news reports, thousands of armchair voyagers young and old had followed his progress, vicariously celebrating the high points and suffering through the lows that invariably make up any long-distance ocean voyage. In an era when most Americans are desperate for the smallest kernel of uplifting news, Zac Sunderland's feat is like a welcomed breath of fresh air.
The August 2009 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.