14-year old Laura Dekker, who we first mentioned last year when she first announced that she hoped to circumnavigate the globe at the age of 13, has been denied permission to set sail once again. Yesterday, a Dutch court ruled that Dekker would remain a ward of the state until August 1st, and that conditions were not safe for her to set out on her journey at this time, much to the dismay of the teenager who hopes to break the record for the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
Last August, the Dutch courts intervened in the girl’s plans, preventing her from sailing at that time. In December of last year, she ran away to St. Maarten in the Caribbean in the hopes that she could somehow get a boat there and begin the voyage on her own. When she was returned home to the Netherlands, child protective services took her under their care, and although she was allowed to live at home with her father, all major decisions regarding her welfare had to be approved by the government.
Following her flight to St. Maarten, the court promised to review her case and give her a chance to demonstrate her skills as a sailor. Since that time, Laura has purchased a new, larger boat, and has taken it on several solo cruises, while also undergoing a battery of tests to provide proof of her ability to sail. Both of her parents are experienced sailors, and the girl was even born on a boat while at sea, so her technical skills are not in question.
The current record for the youngest to sail solo around the world is held by Jessica Watson, who completed her journey last month, three days shy of her 17th birthday. Laura has said that she hopes to break that record, even if it is just by one day. That would give her more than two full years to make the journey, but for now, she won’t be able to get underway until at least August of this year.
There is no indication if the recent struggles of American solo-sailor Abby Sunderland played a role in yesterday’s decision by the Dutch courts either.
[Photo by: Valerie Kuypers/EPA]