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15-year-old solo sailor Dekker grateful for donations

by Nancy Knudsen on 4 Jan 2011
Laura Dekker arrives Sint Maarten 1- Photograph courtesy of www.HeliPhotoCarib.com Heli Photo Carib www.HeliPhotoCarib.com
15-year-old solo sailor Laura Dekker has been overwhelmed by the number of people who have made donations in the past two weeks to help her achieve her wish to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe alone.

As well as her father acknowledging it in the media in Holland, Laura has repeatedly thanked both her sponsors and those who have contributed.

Her father Dick Dekker made an appeal for extra funds at Christmas, so that his 15-year-old daughter could 'sail on with worrying about finances'. The project was not actually in danger, but there was no financial room for extras, like a visit at Christmas by her father.

The solo sailor had hoped to sell filming rights to a television company, but the company pulled out at the last minute. The voyage was the subject of controversy due to the young age of Laura, and it is unknown whether the negative publicity that accompanied the rescue of fellow teenager Abby Sunderland from the South Indian Ocean was any influence on their decision.

When she first announced her plans to sail around the world at the age of 13, the Dutch child welfare authorities refused to give her permission to take time off school and eventually she was made a ward of court. Nevertheless, a judge lifted the wardship last July.

Laura Dekker is currently on the island of St Maarten, doing what all cruisers do, repairing and polishing her boat, and restowing it for the next leg. She will set sail for the Panama Canal sometime this month.

'Youngest' sailing records are a grey area, particularly since both the World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC) and the Guinness Book of Records have ceased to recognise the 'youngest' sailor. This means that all records are unofficial. Jesse Martin still holds the official record for sailing non-stop and unassisted according to the WSSRC rules. Jessica Watson, the Australian sailor who completed a circumnavigation last year was younger than Jesse but did not sail the distance according to those rules. Laura has never intended to complete her journey non-stop and unassisted, but she will be sailing a distance comparable to Jesse Martin.

Does anyone care? Not that you would notice. Jessica won rapturous admiration from Australians when she completed her journey just before her 17th birthday, and no doubt Laura will too, whether or not she completes it before she turns 17, which will be on 20th September 2012.

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