Laura Dekker, youngest sailor ever to circumnavigate the world, hasn't had as much mainstream publicity for her feat as American teenager Abi Sunderland, who never made it and had to be rescued from the Southern Ocean. That might say a lot about the world's media and a lot about employing a PR company, but it's good to know that European sailors are now flocking to hear Laura talk at boat shows.
Laura addressing a boat show in Europe
As Laura wryly commented in her blog this week, 'What I like was....not having to convince people anymore that I could do it because I have already done it.'
It's true that Laura had a grimly more difficult time to attempt her solo sail than her opposite numbers in America, Australia and Britain.
Michael Perrin, young British sailor, was already a hero for sailing the Atlantic solo when he started his solo non-stop circumnavigation attempt (he made it around, but had to stop for technical problems); American Zac Sunderland had never been heard of by anyone when he started his successful solo cruising circumnavigation (and no-one tried to stop him), but was given a hero's welcome on return to his home country. His younger sister Abi Sunderland had vast amounts of reflected glory from her brother when she started her ill-thought-out attempt, too late in the season and in a boat principally meant for racing, and has since published a book on her attempt and dramatic rescue.
Australian Jessica Watson, after her slightly-short solo circumnavigation, non-stop and unassisted, has become a national hero and Young Australian of the Year, with sponsorship deals which should make her a very rich young woman, and media attention wherever she goes.
In contrast to all this furore of attention, the Dutch authorities made extremely potent attempts to prevent Laura's journey in the first place, making her a state ward for a while and putting restrictions on her movements. The Dekker family also claim that Laura's original Guppy was whisked away by tricking them into a painting sponsorship deal, with dark hints that government agencies were behind the deal. They claim they never saw the boat again. Paranoia? Maybe, but the agony the family went through was real enough.
So now Laura, who had merely dozens, not thousands of people to welcome her at the end of her mammoth voyage around the world, is now enjoying some deserved accolades.
'It was nice to tell my story to people who were really listening and interested in my story,' she said of her appearances at Hiswa Boat Show in Holland, De Laatste Boat Show in Belgium and Gotschalk Boat Show in Germany.
Her boat is still moored off the beach of the Caribbean Island of Bonaire. In typical fashion, while enjoying the limelight for a while, she is looking forward to returning to her beloved Guppy. There she will be preparing to set sail for New Zealand, where she hopes to make her home. Yes, that also, is the result of the hurt she suffered at the hands of her own government. She is determined not to live there again - a somewhat sad end-note to a great achievement.
[Footnote: As Laura has a New Zealand passport because she was born on her parents' boat in New Zealand, she will have no problem settling there.]