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Another competitor for Jessica Watson

by Nancy Knudsen on 20 Mar 2010
Laura Dekker is planning to depart in July August .. .
While Sunshine Coast teenager Jessica Watson is half way across the Indian Ocean and on the home run, and Californian Abby Sunderland is in the 'roaring' 40's in the Pacific Ocean and heading for Cape Horn, another still younger teenager is preparing for her own circumnavigation.

14-year-old Dutch girl Laura Dekker, forbidden by a children's court from sailing until 1st July, has purchased a new boat for her own proposed circumnavigation which she has confirmed she plans to commence in July or August. Laura has purchased a Jeanneau Gin Fizz, an older style and fairly inexpensive but highly regarded ketch which she is preparing for her journey. Laura has called the yacht Guppy, like her earlier yacht, and is planning a two-year cruising voyage around the world.

While the Gin Fizz is now out of production, the French-built yacht has a fine reputation as a solid and reliable cruising yacht. Laura's new boat is 37-foot aft-cockpit fibreglass ketch designed by Philippe Harlé. It was produced from 1974 to 1980.

In the meantime this week Jessica is at 35 South, about 18,000 nautical miles and five months into her journey. She is hoping to reach Sydney by the middle of May, sailing her S&S 34, also a solid, if slow, cruising yacht, which was also chosen by Jesse Martin in his successful non-stop circumnavigation. In her most recent gale she had 15-foot seas and 40 knots of wind. With her feet above her head to wedge herself into her bunk, Jessica was alternating between typing her blog, and studying for her learners' driving exam when she arrives home.

However, if the frenzy already being stirred up in Australia is any indication, Jessica will be hard put to find time to sit for any kind of exam when she arrives home - she'll be too busy signing sponsorship contracts, delivering speeches and making bank deposits.

At about the same time, Abby Sunderland was in a gale, too, with the wind about 35 knots and the seas running 10-15 feet. Later in the season to attempt the Horn than Jessica, in the worst case Abby could meet with 100 knot winds and 30-40-foot seas. While it is faster, Abby will find her Open 40 racing yacht more temperamental and challenging to keep under control when conditions are tough.

Both girls are trying to become the youngest person to solo circumnavigate non-stop. Abby, five months younger, is not quite two months into her trip. So Jessica could set a record only to have it broken by Abby a few months later, and Abby could then lose it to Laura, who, even after a 'relaxed' two year odyssey, could still arrive home younger than both.
Zhik DongFengHarken and Fosters -  Harken WinchesZhik Ocean

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