‘Laura Dekker smiles with relief that her voyage will now take place’.
‘I was so happy I almost jumped into the water,’ were the words of Laura Dekker, 14-year-old would-be sailing circumnavigator, describing how she felt when a court in Middleburg, Netherlands, gave her the green light to begin her world sailing voyage.
Laura, who has purchased and prepared her Jeanneau Gin Fizz Guppy for her solo world trip, is expected to leave with in two weeks. If the court had left it any later, it might have put a commencement this year in doubt.
The best time to sail south to the Canary Islands is September, before the winter gales set in in the north Atlantic. Laura is then expected to cross the Atlantic at the end of November, after the hurricane season is ended.
Her journey is a vastly different voyage from that of Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old American girl who came to grief in the Indian Ocean, and from that of Australian 16-year-old Jessica Watson, who earlier this year completed a nonstop circumnavigation successfully. Sunderland was rescued by a French fishing boat more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) west of Australia two days after the alarm was raised. Her parents faced fierce criticism for letting her attempt the trip and for the tens of thousands spent by emergency teams on her rescue. They faced no backlash a year earlier, however, when Abby’s older brother, Zac, completed the same journey at age 17, briefly holding the record for circumnavigating the globe alone.
Laura’s planned voyage –
The Middelburg’s family court’s decision lifted a guardianship order imposed on Dekker last year after she said she wanted to set sail when she was still just 13. Laura and her father received the news at the harbour at Den Osse, where her yacht is moored alongside the boat where she lives with her father.
Presiding Judge S. Kuypers said the decision and responsibility for Laura now ‘lies with her parents.’
‘It is up to them to decide whether Laura can set off on her sail trip,’ he said. Laura’s mother, who was initially against the voyage, last week gave her approval, and her father has always been her greatest supporter. Her father rejected criticism that he was pushing Dekker to do the trip as ‘nonsense.’
‘It was Laura’s plan from the very beginning,’ Dick Dekker told reporters. ‘I just support her in it.’
Laura’s plan ignited a worldwide debate on how far parents should go in supporting or encouraging their children’s improbable dreams, especially after Abby Sunderland’s dramatic rescue from the Indian Ocean underlined the possibilities
Speaking in both Dutch and English after the announcement, Laura told reporters she would set off within two weeks for her starting point in Portugal. She said she needed to complete some further test sailing of her yacht, a ketch.
Jeanneau Gin Fizz –
Dutch authorities had been in conflict over Laura’s case. While social workers – a youth protection group – who had been in constant contact with Laura were in favour of her journey, the court had been ruling on a request from the Dutch government’s umbrella childcare agency, the Council for Child Protection, to extend the guardianship order for another year to prevent Dekker from setting sail. The Council said it remains concerned about her mental and physical development during such a long and lonely trip.
Since making headlines last year by announcing her intention, Dekker has obtained the bigger boat and equipped it with modern navigation and safety equipment. She has studied everything from how to stitch her own wounds to how to cope with sleep deprivation and put out fires onboard her 11.5-metre yacht. She also fitted the boat with new cushions, a new sail and a sunshade for the tropic conditions she is certain to face.
Dekker and her supporters have plotted a nearly two-year route from port to port around the world — including an alternative path around Africa to avoid the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden if necessary.
Dekker said she was not too afraid of pirates, and would follow the recent tendency of yachts to sail close to the shores of Yemen to stay out of the range of Somali pirates.
‘They don’t attack yachts so much,’ she said. ‘If you are in a convoy you should be OK.’
Laura was born on a yacht in New Zealand waters while her parents were sailing around the world and holds New Zealand and Dutch passports.
If Dekker succeeds in her voyage, she would beat 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson in becoming the youngest to sail solo around the world. Watson spent 210 days maneuvering her 34-foot (10-metre) yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, around the world.
Asked about Abby Sunderland’s demise when she was dismasted, Laura said she watched Abby Sunderland’s dramatic rescue unfold, ‘but it didn’t really bother me.’
She said her boat was bigger and more stable than Sunderland’s, and she was ‘planning to take much longer for my voyage in order to catch the best weather’ – something that Abby Sunderland and her team ignored in an effort to break the elusive unofficial record for the youngest solo circumnavigating sailor. – xsracing.org
Fast-forward about 34-minutes into this news video link to view 14-year-old Dutch Laura Dekker’s youngest solo circumnavigation departure / CBC Canada Interview with me
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