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Michael Perham – Record Setting 14 Year Old Solo Atlantic Sailor

Much has been written and shown around the world of the 14-year old single-handed yachtsman who sailed across the Atlantic and into the record books.

Michael Perham, in a Tide 28 (a twenty eight foot yacht), was shadowed by his father, Peter Perham, for the 3,500 mile, six week journey and arrived off Antigua on the afternoon of Tuesday 2nd January but such was the world wide media attention that their entry to English Harbour was delayed until 10am on the morning of Wednesday 3rd in order to catch prime time television in Europe and America together with newspaper deadlines.

The 14 year old was totally unprepared for the reception he received and the amount of media attention which centred around his record breaking trip.  Immediately he stepped ashore, he was surrounded by the international press, both print and wireless media.  Live interviews on BBC television and radio, CNN, ABC and local Antiguan units were followed by barrages of questions. 

The media almost overwhelmed the official reception given by the Minister of Tourism which included speeches and presentations by several dignitaries followed by questions from the public. Wherever he went, people wanted to shake Michael’s hand and ask him about his trip.  By the end of the day, Michael commented that his head was in a whirl and he had lost track of what had gone on since his arrival

As one U.K. newspaper had an exclusive on the story, the print media were not permitted interviews but this did not stop them from contacting the hotel and other Antiguan organisations in an attempt to get access to Michael.  Peter Perham’s mobile ‘phone had over 300 voice messages, too many to be answered.

So unprepared were Michael and Peter for the amount of attention that, when invited to dinner with the Ministers of Tourism and of Sport, they had no suitable clothing.  Peter was able to borrow a jacket, tie and trousers but Michael had to be fitted out courtesy of Benetton who donated a suit, shirt and tie.

After first telephoning his mother, Michael had two desires once stepping on dry land, firstly to do a bit of snorkelling and then to ride a jet ski, something he is not permitted to do in the U.K. as he is under age.  Being under age seems to have been a problem for Michael from the inception of his record attempt.  No one would insure him or his boat, he was unable to get a radio licence and even the Royal Yachting Association could not endorse his trip as it might contravene U.K. Health and Safety Regulations.  As father Peter said  ‘In the U.K. children are no longer allowed to climb trees as it is considered too dangerous’  He hoped that Michael’s example might lead to other children being permitted to be more adventurous.

A visit to the Ministry of Tourism with more hand shaking and further congratulations only served to highlight what would be greeting Michael on his return to the U.K. Press interviews, a reception with Ellen MacArthur and presentations at several boat shows will keep him busy for some time to come. In the future, an American tour is planned by the yacht’s sponsors, Skerchers. 

The 14 year old may have been well prepared for his Atlantic crossing but no one could have equipped him for the celebrity status he achieved on arrival and it may seem surprising to some, but it is a status he does not seem to relish except, perhaps, with his pals at school.

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