Laura Dekker, Dutch 14-year-old, starts solo sailing trip around the world despite controversy

Posted: August 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Saturday, August 21st 2010, 3:19 PM

 

Dutch sailor Laura Dekker, 14, began began her trip Saturday. She hopes to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

ANTONISSE/Getty

Dutch sailor Laura Dekker, 14, began began her trip Saturday. She hopes to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Brimming with confidence, a 14-year-old Dutch girl on a quest to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world launched her vessel from a port in Gibraltar on Saturday.

Laura Dekker was in good spirits when she set sail from the British territory near the southwestern tip of Spain, her manager said.

Her bid to circumnavigate the globe aboard her 38-foot craft “Guppy” is expected to last at least a year.

Laura’s quest has ignited a sea of controversy. Dutch protection authorities denounced the stunt, questioning the wisdom of a child battling the world’s oceans alone.

Manager Peter Klarenbeek noted that the teenage sailor avoided the media because she didn’t want the attention.

“She said goodbye to her father and friends, and she sailed away into the horizon,” said Holland‘s MasMedia company, which has exclusive TV rights to film her voyage.

Laura is heading to Spain’s Canary Islands or Portugal‘s Madeira Island, depending on the wind. From there, she plans to sail through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean, and on to Australia, the southern tip of India and through the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean.

The trip was in jeopardy until last month when a Dutch court released Laura from the guardianship of child protection agencies. The court gave final authority to Laura’s parents.

To allay concerns about her safety, Laura bought a larger, sturdier boat and took courses in first-aid and coping with sleep deprivation.

Masmedia director Marijke Schaaphok said Laura’s uniquely qualified for the mission because she grew up on a boat and “is completely different from a normal 14-year-old girl.”

“She’s very wise and a little bit impatient, but she’s a very nice girl and she knows exactly what she wants,” Schaaphok said.

Laura’s journey comes only two months after 16-year-old American Abby Sunderland had to be rescued in the Indian Ocean during her attempt to circle the globe alone.

Australian Jessica Watson, 16, completed her 210-day voyage earlier this year.

With News Wire Services

Bon Voyage!

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