Anorak | Laura Dekker: the teenager who sailed round the world for humanity

Laura Dekker: the teenager who sailed round the world for humanity

by | 22nd, January 2012

LAURA Dekker is the 16-year-old from the Netherlands (she has dual-nationality, having been born off the cost of New Zealand) who sailed on her own around the world on the 38ft yacht Guppy .

Says Miss Dekker:

“There were moments where I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing out here?’, but I never wanted to stop.”

Ms Dekker set out on January 20 2011.

Other young women have made the round-the-world trip but Laura Dekker is the youngest. In June 2010, Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American sailor, had to be rescued in a remote section of the Indian Ocean during an attempt to circle the globe. Earlier this year Jessica Watson, from Australia, completed a 210-day non-stop voyage aged 16.

Laura Dekker was younger. Her story is a triumph of humanity against nature and officialdom. One of the biggest obstacles Laura Dekker had to navigate was Dutch bureaucracy.

Laura Dekker is not like most other teens. She was born on a boat the daughter of two round-the-world sailors. At 13, Laura sailed on her own from Holland to England. She knew that she wanted to sail around the world on her own. But the Dutch authorities said she was too young. At 14, she said she was ready. The courts disagreed.

Laura’s German-born mother, Babs Muller, who divorced Laura’s father, Dick Dekker, when the girl was six, said in 2009:

“If it were up to me, Laura would not be allowed to go… I see problems when she stays in Third World ports, and in the psychological challenge of being alone at sea. She is not yet grown up.”

But Dirk Dekker had custody. He was happy for his daughter to make the trip. Muller soon changed her mind.

In August 2009, a Dutch court in Utretch overruled parental consent. Judge M. Oostendorp noted:

“She would be confronted with difficult situations that will challenge her mentally and physically.”

The Utrecht court ordered Dutch authorities to take temporary guardianship of Laura until psychologists could determine whether Laura was able to undertake such a difficult voyage. She continued to live with her father.

In October 2009, a Dutch judge told Dekker that she must put her ambitions on hold until July 2010 after a two-month investigation cast doubt on her ability to safely cope with the rigours of the journey.

In December 2009, the Times reported:

Laura, 14, who was stopped by a court in October from attempting a solo voyage, was found on Sunday in St Maarten, in the Dutch Antilles. Utrecht officials linked her flight to distress at being prevented from fulfilling her ambition. Officials from the Utrecht child welfare office were accompanying Laura home as police tried to find out how she managed

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