Category Archives: Sailing

Teen Sailor Gets Dissed by the Associated Press

A now 17-year-old boy from Thousand Oaks, California recently sailed, by himself, some 28,000 miles in one year on a 36-foot sailboat.  Zac Sunderland was 16 when he left Marina del Rey harbor in June, 2008.

The Associated Press writer was a bit snarky, I think, when writing: “But the shaggy-haired Thousand Oaks native might not hold the record of being the youngest person to sail around the world alone for long.  British sailor Mike Perham is a few months younger than Sunderland, and is sailing a bigger, faster boat.”

If I were Zac’s mother, this would have annoyed me.  I’m not his mother, but it annoys me.  Assuming she or he wants to keep a scrapbook commemorating his sailing exploits, what a snarky thing to have included.  “A few months…a bigger, faster boat.”  So what?

Here is a 16 (now 17) year old kid who, instead of partying, abusing drugs, alcohol or hanging out with silly girls, instead of spending hours on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or whatever, instead of hanging in his room sullen, instead of causing trouble at school, instead of driving too fast in the car he shouldn’t have been given in the first place, instead of a lot of typical teenage boy activities, took on a challenge that was to test his ability to discipline himself, live austerely, deal with unpredictable weather and seas, survive loneliness and fear, and fix equipment failures when warranted.

Shoving up his nose in print that someone else trying it is younger and has a better boat, shows, in my opinion, a complete ignorance of the difficulties and challenges he had to face.  It is remarkable for such a young person to brave all the elements of wind and sea to take an incredible journey on his own.  I am sure he now has a healthy respect for nature, life and himself.  I am sure he won’t hesitate to face many other challenges on land.  I am sure he won’t be abusing himself or substances to get a “rush.”  I am sure he’s a fine young man who should be an inspiration to other teens.  You are never too young to have a dream and go for it.

I’m sure his mom is very proud.  She should be!

It’s Not Over Until …

As I have mentioned on the air many times, I race sailboats.  I’ve won some races and lost some, but the favorite wins have been the ones that I least expected would or could happen.  I remember the time that we were over early at the start and had to do a penalty turn of 360 degrees, after getting out of the way of the other starting boats.  We had a heck of a time starting again, as, by the time we finished our penalty turn, many boats were already in our way. 

This incident happened early on in my sailing training, and I became despondent almost immediately, because I realized we now had absolutely no chance of even a third place finish, let alone a first.  My coach and tactician sternly yanked me out of my doldrums and told me that we were “down but not out,” and we had to work even harder now to catch up.  Frankly, I thought this was philosophically lovely, but hugely impractical, and I could barely see the sterns of the boats in front of us as they had so much distance on us.

Nonetheless, after considering breeze, windshifts, current, direction choices, steering, and crew work, there were enough variables to work with to keep our chins up. 

We pulled together as a team, and worked very hard to maximize every option we had, and we ended up winning the race.  I learned a lot that day.  It’s a lot more gratifying to succeed when it is a righteous challenge than when it seems like more of a slam dunk.

Jason Lezak knew this lesson.  Fifty meters from the finish line in the 4x 100 meter freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympics, Mr. Lezak doubted he could overcome the half-body length lead of his French opponent, Alain Bernard, who also happened to hold the world record in the 100-meter freestyle.

Instead of just accepting the probable loss, a determined Mr. Lezak pulled grit from down deep, and swam the fastest he’s ever done, and touched the electronically sensored wall, winning by eight one-hundredths of a second.  He shattered a world record and won a gold medal. 

And then he heard the fat lady sing…the American national anthem!