Please select your home edition
Edition
Bakewell-White Yacht Design

Teen solo sailor reaches Darwin after two ocean crossings

by Nancy Knudsen on 27 Aug 2011
Laura’s journey so far - two oceans down, but still a long way to go. .. .

15-year-old solo sailor Laura Dekker has arrived Darwin, her first stop after crossing the Pacific.

With a shredded sail and only half an hour sleep in the last 48, the young sailor who will become the youngest ever solo circumnavigator if she completes her journey within a year from now, arrived into Darwin on Friday, after one of her most difficult legs so far.


After staying awake to endure the long-winded processes that are the lot of any boat arriving into Australia from the Pacific, Laura was torn between enjoying some human company and getting some sleep.

'But I also longed to sleep... a long sleep in one stretch.... A night without shredding sails, without islands, without reefs or sandbanks, without buoys or ships... How wonderful! But my brain was still running at full speed... then slowed down, slowed down until this most active part of myself fell asleep, fell asleep into a deep and long sleep…'

Laura, who will turn 16 on 20th September, still has a little over a year to sail from Darwin back to the Mediterranean to become the youngest ever circumnavigator. The most vexed question is whether she has time to avoid the pirate zone around the Gulf of Aden and take the longer route around Africa.

All authoritative bodies are advising cruising sailors to avoid a large portion of the western Indian Ocean, making it impossible to reach the Red Sea and the very much shorter route.


What makes a young sailing cruiser - the background:
Laura Dekker was born while living on a boat in New Zealand during her parents' circumnavigation – and when she was just six-years-old she had already mastered the control over her single-handed Optimist dinghy and was criss-crossing lakes back in the Netherlands.

Aged ten she moved up to a seven metre boat and was honing her skills in the waters of Friesland and here she encountered her first problems with the outside world with lock-operators not always willing to allow passage to such a young girl in charge of a boat on her own.

Unperturbed though, and supported by her family she spent the following summer vacation sailing in and around the islands on the Wadden Sea and shortly after she revealed her big dream to take the high seas and become the youngest ever to go around the world.

Supportive but sceptical her father told the budding world-beater that she would have to prove herself first.

Intensive lessons on navigation and safety followed and then Dad Dick Dekker dropped the news that Laura would have to sale to England and back on her own first to show him what she was capable of.
'So long on the open sea with wind, rain and waves – that will soon end any ideas of sailing the world,' recalls Dick on his daughter’s website.

Of course the opposite proved true and the compulsion to take on the biggest sailing challenge of all was stronger than ever despite the fact that Laura was only 13. But the trip to England was an omen in another way too as once Laura arrived in the UK she was detained by the port authorities.

The local authorities judged it too dangerous for a 13-year-old to be at sea alone and they sought to scupper the return leg. They telephoned the girl's father Dick Dekker and asked him to come over and accompany his daughter on the trip home.

When Mr Dekker refused to comply with the request, Lowestoft authorities placed Laura in a children's home. Ultimately Mr Dekker changed his mind and travelled to the UK to collect his daughter. But when he allowed Laura to sail back on her own anyway the British police contacted their Dutch colleagues, who alerted the social services' youth care bureau.

With the family then firmly on the radar of social services in the Netherlands the ball started rolling, the next step seeing the Child Protection Board action. She was made a ward of the state for over a year. Then, with the support always of her father, and finally of her mother who was initially reluctant, she was eventually given permission to leave by a Dutch Children's Court.

She departed Gibraltar on the 21st August, 2010, and has since crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans with little apparent trouble.

Naiad/Oracle SupplierZhik Yachting 660x82T Clewring One Design

Related Articles

MoY Classic Yacht Regatta - Dates for 35th edition revealed
The Museum of Yachting at IYRS is pleased to reveal to the community the 35th Annual Classic Yacht Regatta. The Museum of Yachting at IYRS is pleased to reveal to the community the 35th Annual Classic Yacht Regatta, August 29th- 31st. Registration is now open for the MoY Classic Yacht Regatta, part of the North American Circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge which also includes the Nantucket Opera Cup Regatta (Nantucket, MA) and the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta (Marblehead, MA).
Posted on 15 Aug 2014
Sailor Jeanne Socrates, world's oldest non-stop female circumnavigator
70-year-old Jeanne Socrates arrives Victoria, Canada, as the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world After many days of frustrating drifting, 70-year-old British sailor Jeanne Socrates has made it home to Victoria in triumph, becoming the oldest woman to single-handedly sail non-stop around the world without outside assistance.
Posted on 9 Jul 2013
UK Sailmakers gives Yassine a new mast for 150nm Laser sail record
Yassine Darkaoui wants to sail a 150nm course from Phuket - and has a new mast, thanks to UK Sailmakers In December we ran a story about how a young Moroccan sailor was in Thailand training to sail a 150nm course in a tiny Laser to break the world record. His problem was, his mast was broken and he couldn't afford a new one. Now, thanks to our Asia Editor Guy Nowell and UK Sailmakers Hong Kong representative, Barry Hayes, who read the story, things are looking up for Yassine Darkaoui.
Posted on 17 Jan 2013
Southernmost sailing voyages - who really has the record?
Andrew Troup corrects the records on the most southerly voyages by sailing boats. Recently a Ukrainian/Russian sailing boat, the 98ft steel-hulled Scorpius reached 77 degrees south and claimed a world record. This was greeted by a storm of protest from our readers, one of whom pointed out that in 1965 a tiny Moth was sailed at (but not to) 77.5 degrees. There were other claims too. Andrew Troup here corrects the records...
Posted on 14 Apr 2012
And the most southerly-sailing boat ever is...
Last week we said Ukrainian yacht Scorpius set a new world record in sailing furthest south - 77deg but we were wrong! Last week in Sail-World we told how Ukrainian-Russian crew aboard 30m sailing yacht Scorpius had claimed a new world record in sailing farther south into Antarctica than any other boat had gone, reaching 77 degrees. But we were wrong - well, in a way; because in 1965, Lt. Commander Steve Cockley, based in Mc Murdo Sound, had sailed a Moth, an 11ft (3.4m) dinghy, at 77.5 degrees S.
Posted on 1 Apr 2012
Laura Dekker completes solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days
21 Jan: Solo sailor Laura Dekker has arrived Sint Maarten completing her solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days This week (Saturday 21st January) Laura Dekker, 16-year-old Dutch/New Zealander solo sailor, quietly sailed between islands in pleasant seas into the Dutch island of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, completing a solo odyssey around the world in a year and a day. There were merely dozens, not thousands, of people at the wharf to greet her.
Posted on 22 Jan 2012
Steve White - solo round the world the 'wrong way'
Steve White is to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted the 'wrong way', AND break the current record. Dee Caffari has done it, now Steve White is setting out to do it too. He's going to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted, AND the 'wrong way', AND break the current record.
Posted on 11 Sep 2010
Dee Caffari finishes Aviva Challenge
Dee Caffari, onboard Aviva, crossed the official finish line on 18 May 2006 at 17:55 pm Dee Caffari, onboard Aviva, crossed the official finish line on 18 May 2006 at 17:55 pm
Posted on 19 May 2006
All aboard for Med-Red 2006
The Med-Red Rally is about to set sail. The Med-Red Rally is about to set sail. Sailors from 13 nations are gathering in Yacht Marina Marmaris, Turkey, before setting off on the Rally.
Posted on 14 Mar 2006
Atlantic,Pacific, now Indian Ocean on a Sailboard
French adventurer, Raphaela LeGouvello, will attempt the Indian Ocean crossing on a sailboard, solo and non assisted. It's not a joke! It's ACTUALLY happening. French adventurer, Skipper Raphaela LeGouvello, will attempt the Indian Ocean crossing on a sailboard, solo and non-assisted, departing from Exmouth on 5 April 2006.
Posted on 8 Mar 2006