Aged 14 Mike Perham has the crown for youngest solo transatlantic sailor. But his achievement raises some issues.
It is now commonplace for solo sailors to receive all kinds of outside assistance ranging from technical advice on how to fix broken gear to weather routeing. Ellen MacArthur even had her shore team setting up an identical generator to the one on B&Q to ascertain whether it would run with olive oil as a lubricant after she ran critically short of engine oil. Dee Caffari was talked through – wire by wire – the guts of her autopilots after they started playing up whilst, more recently, Robin Knox-Johnston received advice on getting his satellite communications up and running when they failed.
The purists might argue that any outside assistance renders solo record claims invalid, although I suspect that just a few minutes on board B&Q or Aviva during their circumnavigations might change their extreme views. But young Mike Perham took things a stage further during his recent record breaking solo Atlantic crossing. He sailed in company with his father who crewed an identical Tide 28 trailer/sailer. And when he decided to get his head down for an hour or so Dad kept watch for him, as indeed Mike did for him when he wanted a kip. OK, so Slocum had the pilot of the Pinta watching over him when he was ill with food poisoning, but is a solo crossing really solo with an extra pair of eyes and ears looking and listening, albeit on a different boat? What do you reckon?