Mike Perham, 16, has a steep learning curve ahead to go round the world non-stop on his own in November
You may remember young Michael Perham, who made history last year when he became the youngest person to sail solo across the Atlantic. Then 14, he sailed a 28ft trailer, Cheeky Monkey, from Gibraltar to Antigua, shadowed by his dad, Peter, who was single-handing an identical boat.
Since he made that voyage Mike Perham and his father have been working to find a way for him to go one better and become the youngest person to sail non-stop alone round the world. Getting funding was the first obstacle but this summer they got enough money to charter a yacht from website comparison site totallymoney.com
The next and, frankly, the bigger obstacle is time. Mike is now 16 and there is a time limit on wresting the record from David Dicks, the Australian who completed a circumnavigation non-stop in 1996 aged 18 years and 41 days.
Mike turns 17 next March, so to be sure of setting new record he has to leave in November or December this year in time for the next Southern Ocean summer season.
The Perhams got the boat they want to charter for the voyage in early September and sailed it with owner Servane Escoffier from St Malo to the Southampton Boat Show. It’s a fixed keel, water-ballasted Open 50, originally Cray Valley, the boat J-P Mouligne raced in the 1998 Around Alone.
This is a powerful Finot design, basically a scaled down IMOCA 60, and the rather daunting fact is that, with around three weeks’ of work to be done to prepare the boat, young Mike will have only a month or so get to know the boat and learn to sail her before leaving, as planned, in November.
This is going to be some steep learning curve. Mike hasn’t done any serious sailing since arriving in Antigua in Cheeky Monkey, and the tradewinds voyage was his first ocean passage. His father, Peter, says it’s “not a complicated boat if you break it all down,” and adds: “There’s no way to really prepare for a voyage like this other than go and do it.”
Mike’s planned route would take him south of Australia, New Zealand and round Cape Horn before returning to Portsmouth. His father is very keen not to leave at the same time as the Vendée Globe on 9 November.
“There’s a very high rate of attrition in these boats and I don’t want that to put him off,” he told me, “and I wouldn’t want him to have to go and rescue one of them.”