Junior explorer to study from his cabin

A student taking time off to circumnavigate the globe plans to keep in touch with lecturers by satellite - funds allowing

Joseph Lee

While many students would go to the ends of the earth to avoid handing in work, Michael Perham is doing the opposite.

The 16-year-old plans to submit assignments to his tutors at Oaklands College from all over the world by satellite from the cabin of a boat as he attempts to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe alone.

After catching the sailing bug from his father, Peter, as a seven-year- old, Michael has already become the youngest person to cross the Atlantic solo, at the age of 14.

Now enrolled at the Hertfordshire college, he is pursuing a Btec in sport at its athletics academy, but will leave for his record-breaking attempt early next month.

During his four-month voyage, at the helm of a 50ft racing yacht designed for solo sailors, his tutors will email him work which he will complete in the cabin and return via satellite.

"The idea is for them to send me work and for me to email it back," he said. "There's a practical element to the course too - a lot of training - but in a way I could use the world trip as my practical. It's great."

However, with a satellite communications bill running into tens of thousands of pounds, and no sponsor as yet to pick up the tab, his lifeline to the world - and chances of staying in his lecturers' good books - is uncertain.

Michael, who lives in Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, chose the college because it allowed him to combine his sailing dream with study.

The athletics academy is intended to help sporting stars of the future maintain demanding training regimes while keeping up their studies.

Gary Anderson, director of performance, said: "We're delighted Michael chose to study with us here at Oaklands. Michael is a truly inspirational young man and has proved an immediate hit with his fellow students.

"We'll be keeping a close eye on his progress as he embarks on this extraordinary challenge, and I'll be making sure all his assignments still make it in on time."

Michael will be living on high-calorie freeze-dried meals as he completes the voyage.

He said the company of family and friends was the thing he would miss the most.

"That's the hardest thing. It does get lonely at times. You just have to put yourself in a positive frame of mind and go from there," he said.

"A lot of people say it's a risky sport and so on, but once you do the stuff yourself and know how to do it, it's not so dangerous. Something like horse riding is probably 10 times more dangerous.

"Once you've had a taste of success, you want it again and again and you'll do anything to achieve it."

If Michael completes the trip in four months, he will steal the record from Zac Sunderland, an American student, aged 16, who set off in June this year in a boat he bought for $6,000 and who expects to take nearly a year to complete his journey.

Until this year, the youngest person to attempt a solo circumnavigation was the Australian David Dicks, who was 18 when he achieved it in 1996.

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Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee is an award-winning freelance education journalist 

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