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Laura Dekker rounds Cape in fierce storms, arrives Cape Town

by Carol Dolley, IOL/ Sail-World Cruising on 29 Nov 2011
Laura Dekker arrives Sint Maarten 1- Photograph courtesy of www.HeliPhotoCarib.com Heli Photo Carib www.HeliPhotoCarib.com
Laura Dekker, 16-year-old Dutch/New Zealand solo sailor, has rounded Cape Agulhas in 50 gusting 55 knot winds and arrived in Cape Town to be greeted by her father, Dick Dekker.

After three days on the high seas, Laura was jubilant to have turned in a northerly direction for the first time in the 463 days since she departed Gibraltar on 21st August 2010. So far she has crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans and has managed all that has come her way with a quiet confidence. The most recent leg was no exception.


She told Carol Dolley of IOL News in South Africa that her passage had been 'like being on a roller-coaster that's underwater.'

Local businessman Alon Kowen, a seasoned skipper who sailed to welcome Laura at sea and met her off Llandudno, said the weather had been awful.

'Not even the most seasoned skipper will round Cape Point in winds like that. She’s a very brave girl,' he said.

Laura, who had been sailing from Port Elizabeth for three days, rounded Cape Point shortly after midnight in winds of up to 50 knots.

She was soaked through, with waves continually crashing over her 38-foot yacht, Guppy. She arrived in Cape Town Harbour hours later and docked at the Waterfront around 9am, finding herself beside Camper, one of the Volvo Racing boats which had also just arrived in the harbour after crossing the Atlantic.

'One of the first things I’m going to do is clean up my boat.' she told Dolley, 'It looks like a house hit by an earthquake, but with lots of water,' she said.

Her crossing of the Indian Ocean from Darwin to Durban was one of her longest, 47 days non-stop at sea, and when it was almost over she observed, expressing feelings that many a long range cruiser will recognise, that 'She didn't want it to end.'

Laura told of the sharks, whales and dolphins she had seen around her yacht.

'Down here I saw some whales. One time I had two sharks passing right behind the boat. I mostly see the fins. I’m not scared. It’s not like I’m planning to jump over,' Laura joked.

While the Indian Ocean knocked Laura's boat Guppy around, flooding the cabin several times, she avoided the fate that struck American teen sailor Abby Sunderland in the same ocean when she was hit by a rogue wave in June 2010.

Yet Dekker’s feat was not lost on Sunderland. 'Congratulations to Laura Dekker for crossing the Indian Ocean successfully! It is a huge accomplishment and I couldn't be happier for her,' she said by email via Dekker’s manager Lyall Mercer.

Mercer – who is also Sunderland’s publicist and guided her through the intense media pressure after her rescue - describes both girls as able sailors and rejects criticism of their parents.

'It’s hypocritical for people who have no idea where their teenage kids are at nights to sit in judgement of the parents of Laura and Abby who have allowed their daughters to tackle great sporting challenges only after the highest level of training, preparation and support,' he said.

While Sunderland is now tackling a college degree, Dekker is catching up with her father Dick, who flew in from The Netherlands. She will leave Cape Town in approximately two weeks and is on target to overtake Australian Jessica Watson’s 'youngest' record.

However, now that she was back on land for a couple of weeks, she longs to eat fresh vegetables and food as she does not have a refrigerator on her yacht, and has been living mostly on spaghetti and rice.

'I also want fresh water. I don’t have a lot on the yacht and I don’t waste it on showering… After the first wave hits I get really salty. In the beginning it was so itchy.'

Not itchy enough to deter her, however. Laura also remarked to the Cape Times on arrival that 'after this odyssey,she hoped to sail around the world again, spending more time at each destination.'
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