Zachary “Zac” Sunderland was the first person under the age of 18 (born November 29, 1991) to sail solo around the world. Sunderland completed his 28,000-nautical-mile trip and broke the world record after 13 months and 2 days at sea. He departed for his trip at the early age of 16 from Marina del Rey, California on June 14, 2008 and returned home at the age of 17 on July 16, 2009. It is estimated that fewer than 250 people in history have circumnavigated the globe via sailboat, solo.
Sailing around the world is one of the oldest and most difficult adventures of all time. Man has tested himself against this task for over 500 hundred years. Sailing around the world alone is akin to climbing Mount Everest, sledding across the Arctic, or canoeing the Nile River. The difficulty and the danger cannot be underestimated.
Out of all the billions and billions of people that live or have lived, more people have gone into space than have sailed alone around the world. Less than a handful of people have done it under the age of 20.
Even in this day of modern gadgetry, there is still one simple truth: Zac was the first person to sail his boat around the world under the age of 18. Zac spent weeks and weeks at sea, he battled storms, pirates, illness, loneliness, hunger, and fear, to survive in the most hostile environment on the planet.
Zac grew up in Southern California. A year and a half prior to his journey, he had a dream to sail around the world. It would have been easy to dismiss such a “far fetched fantasy”, but Zac took his own money ($6,000), earned like most kids from summer jobs, and bought a 36 foot sailboat. He named his boat Intrepid. His parents had hoped he would find something that would create a fire in him, a passion that would direct him away from all the negative and harmful influences that are so prevalent in our society, but even they were stunned by the scope of his dreams and desires. Clearly, Zac and his parents hopes came to fruition.
Though they first questioned his dream, Zac was not to be deterred. He worked endless 18 hour days preparing his boat for its Journey.
His hard work and the seriousness which he approached the preparations caught peoples’ attention and suddenly it seemed the whole nation was caught up in Zac’s dream.
Zac’s dream, a dream of adventure, discovery, and challenge, is one of the simple truths of being human. There is no agenda, no political motivation, just the simple desires of a young man to go exploring, to see new places and meet new people. It is a simple testament to what is important, to working towards your goals. Most of all, with perseverance and faith in God, anything is possible.
After departing from California, Sunderland crossed the Pacific to his first port of call, the Marshall Islands, then headed west to Papua New Guinea, then Australia, the Indian Ocean, Mauritius and Madagascar, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, sailing across the Atlantic, and finally transiting the Panama Canal/Galapagos Islands back to the Pacific and home.
When Zac began his voyage he had one year of high school remaining. He continued his school work while he was sailing. He brought his school books with him and sent his tests (via e-mail) to his mom for grading.
Zac’s trip ultimately cost over $140,000 and was largely sponsored by his dad’s boat company and other corporate sponsors.
Approximately two years after completing his voyage, on July 9, 2012, the LA Daily News reported that Zac listed his boat, the Intrpepid, for Sale for $59,000. The sail boat was equipped with high-priced technology that was installed on the ship, including a solar-powered oven, a self-furling system and an advanced communications setup. At the time of the Sale, Zac was reported to be not using his sail boat due to a busy teaching schedule (sailing) and captaining charters in Long Beach at the Pacific Sailing Club. Zac was quoted as saying one of the reasons for selling his boat was “It’s like having a Formula One car being stored a in a garage. It’s no good, you need to use the thing.”
It should be noted that Australian Jessica Watson captured the title from Zac, as the “youngest” when she completed her circumnavigation of the globe at age 16 in May 2010.
After being inspired by this amazing young man, are you interested in becoming a solo circumnavigator and sailing around the world? If you are, go here to see the most common sailing routes to go around the world.