by Lyall Mercer
After a year at sea, solo-sailor Laura Dekker celebrates her 16th birthday in Australia this week on Tuesday Sept 20.
Laura Dekker on Guppy - Photograph courtesy of www.HeliPhotoCarib.com
The New Zealand born and Dutch raised teenager left Gibraltar just short of her 15th birthday. She has already crossed two oceans and expects to finish the journey by May 2012 – when she will still be three months younger than Australia’s Jessica Watson who currently holds the unofficial record, although she didn't complete the distance normally associated with a circumnavigation.
Dekker’s international manager, Australian Lyall Mercer said she has been busy maintaining her boat 'Guppy' and hasn’t yet had time to think about turning 16.
'You might think a birthday is no big deal for someone who has already experienced more adventure than most people will see in a lifetime, but turning 16 is a milestone and she is looking forward to celebrating,' he said.
Dekker will celebrate with her father Dick, who travelled from The Netherlands to spend time with her during the three week Australian stopover.
New Zealand Flag present:
Mercer revealed he is giving Dekker a New Zealand flag for her birthday – something the young sailor has been asking for.
'Her Dutch flag is on its last legs and Laura is very proud of her New Zealand heritage, so she’ll fly the flag of her birth nation for the duration of her journey.'
Unlike former teenage sailors Watson and American Abby Sunderland, Dekker has shunned much of the publicity, preferring a lower-key trip.
Mercer - who has only recently taken on Dekker’s management - said he is trying to respect her desire for less media attention while fielding countless enquiries from across the world.
'Laura doesn’t really comprehend how popular she is. Her attempts to avoid the spotlight only make people more intrigued and endear her to the public,' he said.
To help connect with her supporters, Dekker has recently established an official Twitter account and while this is usually maintained by Mercer’s company, Dekker will be on Twitter chatting live and answering questions on Thursday September 22.
To chat to Laura Dekker follow her on Twitter @Laura_and_Guppy and log in at the following times:
European (Paris and Amsterdam): 8.00am
East Coast USA: 2.00am - (that's VERY early or VERY late)
Australian Eastern Standard time: 4.00pm