messing about in boats

The Schoolboy Who Sailed Around The World

Posted in Sailing by Joseph Moore on November 6, 2009

Young people deciding they want to circumnavigate the globe is getting sailing a pretty high profile spot right now. Last night I watched Channel 4’s The Schoolboy Who Sailed Around The World, which is a documentary about Mike Perham. I watched in the certainty that although I’d not followed Mike’s journey – other than knowing he was doing it because our local papers were going crazy for the story, he is a local lad after all – that I would be spending a lot of the programme yelling at the television.

I could probably rant for hours about everything that annoyed me, but it won’t make much difference so here are a few of the major points:

  • £1million to sail the world. Yes, if you want to buy yourself two boats and all the gear so you can go boating afterwards as well. In fact, the whole sponsorship thing in general; It can allow you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do, but it doesn’t give you licence to take these people for a ride. Spend the money responsibly as if it were your own. In fact, budget the whole trip in that way. Use a cheap but seaworthy yacht and be sensible with your supplies.
  • Experience. Clearly he didn’t have enough, not in sailing per-say (though the scene as he was leaving England and trying to put the sails up made me cringe) but just in fixing the boat. Leaking window? Fix it for God’s sake… don’t sit there getting everything wet!
  • Choice of boat. An Open 50? Really? Sure, it’ll get you round fast and look flash, but racing boats are developed with the narrowest of margins at the best of times, let alone when they’ve seen 12 years of service. If you’ve got to refit a boat, you really can’t expect it to be problem free when you get on it… Again, why was there no prolonged testing of the boat? Would have been sensible to say “Right, let’s start the thing in Portugal and use the trip down there as a shakedown” from the word go. Guess it doesn’t look so good for the cameras on Portsmouth dock then.
  • Being prepared. I’ve no doubt it’s difficult, but with a weather man advising you of your route the whole way so all you have to do is look out the window, it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid being knocked flat. It’s an Open 50, chances are you’ll have to stick a big reef in a lot earlier than you would have on some tubby cruiser!
  • Disappointing or not, don’t have a strop when you leave port to find a load of water on the boat. Count your lucky stars you checked it when you did and kick yourself for not checking it before you left.

There was of course the inevitable race with Zac Sunderland who seemed to have a much more sensible yacht, much more sensible route and much more sensible expectations in general. Also, I’ve got to say, broken autopilots do seem to be a common theme in sailing. Do they ever work?

I guess the bottom line is, Mike’s sailed around the world and I haven’t, but I do wonder if he could have been a little more responsible about it in many ways.

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