Saturday, January 21, 2012

Teenage Sailor Laura Dekker Becomes Youngest to Circumnavigate the Globe

I think you may have had to have done a bit of single handing yourself, to truly appreciate what a staggering achievement this kid has managed to pull off. Fair play to you girl, fair play indeed.

Teenage sailor Laura Dekker becomes youngest to circumnavigate the globe

A year and a day after she set out to sail single-handed around the globe, Dutch teenager Laura Dekker will finish her 27,000 mile voyage on Saturday.
By Nick Meo and Joan Clements
21 Jan 2012

Miss Dekker, who is 16 years and four months old, has cut six months off the unofficial record set in 2010 by Australian teenager Jessica Watson, who was days away from her 17th birthday when she completed her own non-stop voyage.

Miss Dekker has had to cope with weeks of solitude, ocean storms and a fear of pirates while navigating and sailing a 38-foot yacht called Guppy, all the time trying to keep up with her schoolwork.

But she will not be sailing into the record books. After the controversy she caused when she announced she was going to try to break the record in a small boat aged just 13, the Guinness Book of Records decided to stop recognising records for “youngest” sailors.

Miss Dekker fled abroad in 2010 when Dutch child welfare authorities took legal action to try to stop her making the voyage. She later won a 10-month court battle, promising judges she would buy a bigger boat with advanced navigation equipment, take courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation, and enrol in a special correspondence school.

Her grandparents, divorced parents, and younger sister Kim are among those waiting to greet her in the Dutch Caribbean island of Saint Martin, her starting point last January. She is finishing a long leg from her last port of call in South Africa in November.

“A small flotilla will sail out to greet her, including the coastguard, and then we have a big ceremony planned in the yacht club,” said her manager Gerard van Erp, who is in daily radio contact with Miss Dekker.

“She said she is a little nervous about what is waiting for her. It may seem a bit strange to her after spending so long alone at sea.”

Miss Dekker effectively grew up on boats with her sailor father Dick, who has encouraged her voyages. At the age of 12 she sailed from the Netherlands to Britain and back.

Mr van Erp said there was no sign of Dutch officials at Saint Martin, after fears were raised that the authorities may not yet have lost interest in her. Truancy officers reportedly issued her father a summons to appear before them late last year, after a newspaper quoted her admitting that she hadn’t been able to pay full attention to her correspondence course because she had to concentrate on sailing through a series of storms.

Unlike other youthful round-the-world sailors, Miss Dekker made several stops at ports to ensure her vessel was properly maintained, and to brush up on her studies.

Mr van Erp said her route was carefully planned to avoid areas off the west and east African coastlines where pirates are active, forcing her to sail far out into the ocean.

Not all youthful sailors have been as lucky as her. Miss Dekker’s voyage began two months after Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American, had to be rescued when her mast broke in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

Miss Dekker’s achievement has divided the Netherlands, where her father has been branded “irresponsible” and a publicity seeker. In the blogs she has written at sea Miss Dekker has described her anger with Dutch officials, after five court appearances which she said would “haunt her for a long time”.

On Friday night she wrote: “I do not want to be totally negative about Holland, I know I have many supporters there. I feel sad for them that I am not sailing into either Hoek van Holland or Ijmuiden. That would have bene a great party for everyone.”

She has written a book on her two-year fight with Dutch officials before embarking on her voyage, called Mijn Verhaal (My Story).

She now expects to go back to school, Mr van Erp said, though not necessarily in the Netherlands.

Miss Dekker said in blogs written during her voyage that she was so tired of the controversy it had aroused in Holland that she might move abroad. She holds a New Zealand passport as she was born in New Zealand waters - on a boat - during a seven-year voyage made by her parents. She also hopes to work for conservation, after using her voyage to raise funds for the charity Sea Shepherd. Telegraph

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