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Youngest solo circumnavigator - school but no Netherlands

by Nancy Knudsen on 27 Feb 2012
Laura in Bonaire .. .
What next for a sailor who finishes a circumnavigation at the age of 16? Australia's Jessica Watson became an instant celebrity, was made Young Australian of the year, endorsed multiple products, entered the world of racing by sailing a Sydney to Hobart. Dutch sailor Laura Dekker is just 'going back to school'. She is not even returning to her home country, which tried to prevent her journey.

Laura, now still continuing her studies on her boat in the Caribbean, is committed to school, but will probably stay in the Caribbean to finish her secondary schooling.

Since her departure a year ago Laura has been following a correspondence course of the Wereldschool ['World School', Lelystad, The Netherlands]. According to the school, Laura 'may restart on her studies at anytime she wants'. She has all the necessary books aboard and has been doing exactly the same as her peers ashore, however, during the last months of her trip Laura had apparently put her schooling on the backburner.

Laura can continue her schooling via the Wereldschool or at a normal school ashore. She said that she has definitely decided that she feels like going back to school. Typically, Laura added, 'Not because I have to do so. I never do anything because it has to be - I do it because I want it.'

In van Erp's opinion, expressed to Suzanne Docter in the Algemeen Dagblad, this will happen in the island of Bonaire where he is living with his wife and his two teenage kids.

'She already spent five weeks with us in early 2011 and it worked perfectly,' he told Algemeen Dagblad, 'There is a post-secondary school in Bonaire she can go to and she can have company with my kids. At the moment a student is living at our house and he could give her some extra lessons in chemistry, the only subject she is behind on.'

However it now emerges that Laura's father Dick Dekker, in the words of a school official in Goes, in the Dutch province of Zeeland, could be liable for a heavy fine. Apparently, in an effort to avert any likelyhood of the Dutch authorities chasing Laura across the world while she was sailing, he had deregistered her at the Dutch Registration Office. By precedent, he could be fined up to 1500 Euro for doing this before her 16th birthday, becoming a 'failed parent.'

Since Laura is 16 now she has no longer an obligation to attend school. Nevertheless, she has an obligation by law to receive a graduation before her 18th birthday. 'This will be very easy for her' van Erp said, 'She is not too far behind'.

So there are no major celebrations, no Young Dutch sailor of the year, no endorsements, no celebrity fame in her home country, no catapulting into a celebrity racing circuit. She is trying to write her book, there's a film being made, but these are small outcomes compared to the celebrity status that many others have been given for lesser achievements.

It could be that's the way she wants it...

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