IF Michael Perham has an essay to write on “What I did during the Christmas holidays” it should be well-worth reading. The 14-year-old's opening sentence might be: “I left Gibraltar November 18, 2006, and sailed into Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua, January 3, 2007.” Forget the disappointments of the Ashes and the World Cup; Michael Perham's six-and-a-half week single-handed crossing of the Atlantic in his 28ft yacht Cheeky Monkey is a real national morale booster so early in the New Year and confirmation that the British continue to be able to produce fine solo sailors, whether golden oldies or extreme youngsters such as Michael Perham. He now holds the record for the youngest person ever to cross the Atlantic single-handed, a title previously held by Sebastian Clover of the Isle of Wight who sailed from the Canaries to Antigua in January 2003 at the age of 15.

These days solo yachtsmen and women have satellite communications that enable them to keep in touch with their support team; Michael Perham also knew that his father was tracking him in a separate boat. But none of this takes away from his achievement; in high seas and gale force winds he was truly alone. For once John Prescott got things right when he said yesterday, “Michael has proved himself another successful sailor in the great British maritime tradition. The whole country will join me in sending congratulations on this remarkable achievement.”


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