British teen becomes youngest to sail world solo

LONDON Thu Aug 27, 2009 2:31pm EDT

British sailor Mike Perham, 17, holds flares as he celebrates his arrival into Falmouth, southern England August 27, 2009. The British teenager became the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world after crossing the finishing line off Land's End on Thursday. REUTERS/Pickthall/PPL/Handout

British sailor Mike Perham, 17, holds flares as he celebrates his arrival into Falmouth, southern England August 27, 2009. The British teenager became the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world after crossing the finishing line off Land's End on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Pickthall/PPL/Handout

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LONDON (Reuters) - A 17-year-old Briton became the youngest person to sail round the globe single-handed on Thursday after nine months at sea.

Mike Perham suffered knockdowns and damage to his yacht during the 24,000-mile (38,700-km) trip and the teenager from Hertfordshire, southern England, said he was now looking forward to a "good meal and a very good night's sleep."

Fewer than 250 people have sailed solo around the globe, but his record is already in jeopardy if a 13-year-old Dutch girl persuades a court to allow her to set sail.

Perham, who started sailing aged seven, was the youngest person to sail across the Atlantic Ocean, aged 14, in 2007.

Perham crossed the start line for his round-the-world trip between Ushant, northern France, and Lizard Point, southern England, on November 18 last year as a 16-year-old and celebrated his 17th birthday in the southern Indian Ocean.

Early on, he suffered technical problems with his Open 50 yacht, TotallyMoney.com, and was forced to seek repairs at various ports, including in Portugal, Gran Canaria, Cape Town, Tasmania and Auckland.

Because of that, Guinness World Records categorized his record as "assisted."

"The low points are when things go wrong unexpectedly and it is down to you to fix it, because that's not getting you nearer to home, that's only getting you further away," he told BBC television by phone.

He had to deal with his genoa sail ripping from top to bottom and swimming under the boat's hull to cut free a jammed spinnaker sheet.

Poor weather and the onset of winter forced him to go through the Panama Canal rather than sail around Cape Horn, on the southerly tip of South America.

Perham said he never doubted he would complete the trip, but he did have moments when he questioned what he was doing.

"But you push on and you handle it," he told the BBC.

"I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for in terms of being on my own, but it's definitely the hardest bit of the trip being on your own because there is nobody to help you and you do miss the physical contact."

The previous youngest to complete a similar voyage was American Zac Sunderland last month, but his effort is not recognized by Guinness World Records.

Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, described Perham's latest achievement as heroic.

"It shows Mike as a truly unique young man, whose dream was realized through sheer determination and commitment."

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Keith Weir)

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