British teenager is the new Crown Prince of intrepid young solo sailors


Teenager Mike Perham arrives in Antigua today to become, at 14, the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic single-handed. It’s a tremendous achievement.

In so doing he joins the ranks of some of the rarest and most intrepid of all ocean voyagers. Other young sailors who made major ocean passages alone include Seb Clover, the 16-year-old from the Isle of Wight whom Mike Perham admits to admiring and emulating. Young Seb sailed to Antigua in 2002 in a Contessa 32, shadowed by his father Ian in a sistership.

Two other sailors who paved the way with their lone voyages are Tania Aebi and Brian Caldwell.

In 1987, American teenager Tania Aebi was 18 when she sailed round the world alone in a Contessa 26, a journey that took two-and-a-half years. She admitted that it had been her father’s idea. During her voyage she met and fell in love with a French single-hander, and 19 years on is married to him with two sons. She has written two books, gives talks and still sails with her family.

Brian ‘BJ’ Caldwell grew up in Tahiti and was inspired by a meeting with French legend Bruno Peyron to plan a solo circumnavigation of his own. BJ was 19 when he set off in 1995, also in a Contessa 26. Since then he has done numerous yacht deliveries and raced in Sydney-Hobart races.

On a slightly more modest scale, a young Ellen MacArthur was 18 when she sailed round Britain in her 21ft Corribee Iduna – and the rest is history. So Mike Perham has a four year head start on Britain’s most famous sailor. And good luck to him!