17-year-old, youngest solo circumnavigator ever, returns to SoCal

Zac Sunderland of the US waves as he arrives at Marina Del Rey, California, on July, 16, 2009. The 17 year old teenager became the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone by yatcht.
Zac Sunderland of the US waves as he arrives at Marina Del Rey, California, on July, 16, 2009. The 17 year old teenager became the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone by yatcht. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Seventeen-year-old Zac Sunderland from Thousand Oaks is officially the youngest sailor to circle the world alone. KPCC's Patricia Nazario was at Marina Del Rey Thursday morning when the high school senior docked his sailboat after 400 days at sea.

Patricia Nazario: The tall, skinny teenager received a hero's welcome. About 300 classmates, church friends, and people who'd followed his journey on ZacSunderland.com crowded around to shake his hand. Gary Spade, a self-professed fan, was one of them.

Gary Spade: Tremendous achievement. What a story. What an inspiration.

Nazario: The American Sailing Association recognized Sunderland with two world records: the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe and the first person under 18 years old to do it alone. Sunderland thanked a list of sponsors including his father, and said he took on the challenge because he loves sailing.

His words inspired onlooker Emily Fuller. The 14-year-old long-distance freestyle swimmer is preparing for a big meet this weekend.

Emily Fuller: This might be my first shot at making the Junior Olympics, which this kinda gives me hope and it kinda helps out a bit.

Nazario: Sunderland said he plans to finish a few classes and complete his high school education. But college is not in his plans – not right now.

Zac Sunderland: I'm looking into getting a TV series going, got a lot of people interested in that, and hopefully gonna climb Mt. Everest or take a trip into the Arctic or something. So, we'll see.

Nazario: Sunderland will share more of sailing adventure beyond his Web site. He's planning to release a DVD next month and a book next year.

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