Robin Lee Graham on the Latest Teen Circumnavs - Sail Magazine

Robin Lee Graham on the Latest Teen Circumnavs

In July 1965, at the age of 16, Robin Lee Graham set out on a 33,000-mile, five-year circumnavigation aboard his Bill Lapworth-designed 24ft sloop Dove. National Geographic magazine famously covered the voyage, which spawned two best-selling books—Dove and Home Is The Sailor—a children’s book and a 1974 Hollywood movie, The Dove.In recent years, another
Author:
Publish date:
SAIP-100800-US-07.interior1

In July 1965, at the age of 16, Robin Lee Graham set out on a 33,000-mile, five-year circumnavigation aboard his Bill Lapworth-designed 24ft sloop Dove. National Geographic magazine famously covered the voyage, which spawned two best-selling books—Dove and Home Is The Sailor—a children’s book and a 1974 Hollywood movie, The Dove.

In recent years, another generation of teenagers has set out to establish their own records. In 2009, Zac Sunderland became the first person under age 18 to successfully complete a circumnavigation, an achievement that has since been matched by Brit Michael Perham, age 17, and Australian Jessica Watson, age 16. In June, Sunderland’s 16-year-old sister, Abby, was dismasted and rescued in the Indian Ocean while attempting a circumnavigation of her own.

Not surprisingly, the race to be the youngest has sparked its share of controversy, and the World Sailing Speed Record Council no longer recognizes these age-related records. To get some perspective on the phenomenon, who better to ask than the “teenager” who started it all, Robin Lee Graham? I contacted Robin, now 61, and his wife, Patti, at their home in Montana.

__________________________________________________________________________________

RLG2


SAIL:
You sailed around the world as a teen, but now you’re an adult and have two grown children and three grandchildren. Do you still think it’s a good idea for someone so young to be subjected to the dangers involved in chasing such goals?

Graham: I had a lot of experience before I set sail. I could navigate, was a competent sailor and already had a lot of bluewater experience cruising with my family. I had the strong desire to do it, and knew I was capable of doing it. It sounds like Abby Sunderland has all those same attributes. I’m sorry her voyage was not successful. But storms at sea happen. I doubt her age was the problem. If my kids had that same knowledge and desire, I’d say go ahead, realize your dreams. It’s totally individualistic. One person might be able to do it at age 16, another at 40. A lot of people are never equipped to sail solo. You have to know yourself.

__________________________________________________________________________________


SAIL:
But can anyone truly know who they are at such a young age?

Graham: Good point, but who better to know whether a young person is ready for such responsibility than a parent? Sure, there are bad parents with bad judgment. But a good parent knows their child and knows whether their son or daughter can handle it.

__________________________________________________________________________________

SAIL: Yet, your own mother was against you voyaging solo. In your book you discuss how she actually hired a lawyer to try and stop you from setting sail.

Graham: As a parent myself, I have empathy. But even though we cruised extensively as a family when I was growing up, my mother was never really a sailor. Sailing was my father’s passion, and mine. Mom never really understood the whole “lure of the sea” thing. So when I wanted to sail around the world, she just didn’t understand. But once I actually was on my way, she became very supportive. I’d call her on a ham radio rig from various ports, and she was always very encouraging. But it’s a parent’s job to worry. My mom is 88 and still worries about me.

__________________________________________________________________________________

SAIL: So, what do you say to those who might claim it is bad parenting to allow a son or daughter to pursue their passion when that passion leads them into dangerous situations?

RLG: It’s just not cut and dried. Each child is different. Being a good parent means understanding your child, understanding whether they have a strong enough desire to overcome adversity and whether they have the skills, knowledge and maturity to accomplish their goals.

Related

9781472947666

Book Review: The Atlantic Crossing Guide

Jane Russell & the RCC Pilotage FoundationIf you have a yen for sailing across the Pond to explore the delights of Northern Europe or the Mediterranean, you’d best do some homework first. There’s no better primer than this weighty tome, now in its 7th edition. It’s crammed with ...read more

shutterstock_63705382

Raytech Gelbox Line

Well GelledEvery so often you run across a product you never knew you needed, and then you wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with it. Thus it is with the Gelbox line from Raytech. These reuseable plastic boxes for low-voltage connectors are filled with gel, so ...read more

shutterstock_295810247

Cruising: Nova Scotia’s Bras d’Or Lake

I have rarely had a cruise that wasn’t different from my expectations, and my Nova Scotia travels have borne that out. For my friend and shipmate, Steve White, and me, our 2017 trip to Cape Breton Island and the Bras d’Or Lake on One Timer, my Sabre 362, was a much anticipated ...read more

ElanGT5-a

Boat Review: Elan GT5

Aboard many modern yachts, it can be hard to remember exactly what boat you’re on until your eye happens to light upon a logo. However, this is most definitely not the case with the Elan GT5, a performance cruiser with a look all its own and style to burn.Design & ...read more

01-Lead-P1060210

Handheld VHF Radios

For many sailors, cell phones have become their primary means of both ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Even the Coast Guard will often ask for a cell number after it receives a distress call. None of this, however, makes a VHF radio any less important—and this goes ...read more

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more

01-Trash-Tiki_in-partnership-with-Subtch-Sports_starting

The Adventurers Aboard Trash-Tiki

If you were in Gotland, a popular island vacation destination off the coast of Sweden, on the morning of July 3, your holiday might have been interrupted by a startling sight: a tiny island of trash approaching shore with people aboard. It was, in fact, a sailboat made from ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more