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Dutch child protection authorities move against young sailor

by Nancy Knudsen on 5 Jun 2010
Laura Dekker - now with a newly acquired Jeanneau Gin Fizz, Guppy SW
Fourteen-year-old Dutch girl Laura Dekker may remain remain a ward of court and so unable to set out on her planned two-year solo sailing trip around the world.

The Dutch child protection authorities have asked the court to extend the girl's status, which was set to end on 1 July, shortly after which Laura wanted to begin her attempt. A court in the town of Middelburg has announced that it will consider the case on 14th June and give its ruling at 3.00pm on 17th June.

Since being made a ward of the court to prevent her departure before 1st July, Laura has purchased a Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch and has been preparing the boat for a departure in late July.

The young sailor, who has already completed one circumnavigation with her parents, was not planning to attempt a non-stop passage, but a cruising circumnavigation, visiting many countries along the way. She was planning to take the 'warm weather' route, travelling westwards around the world. This would take her to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, north of Australia, south of Africa then north up the Atlantic back to her home port.

For this reason her journey can hardly be compared to those who set out to complete a non-stop record, such as Britain's Mike Perham, Californian Abby Sunderland and Australia's Jessica Watson. These journeys obliged the sailor to sail deep into the treacherous Southern Ocean. It was to be more like the voyage that Zac Sunderland(Abby's older brother) completed less than a year ago. (Both Mike and Abby were forced to stop for yacht maintenance reasons, and only Jessica was able to keep sailing in her sturdy Sparksman & Stephens 34)

Last year the court blocked Laura, saying that she needed more sea sailing experience, a first-aid diploma and to learn how to deal with sleep deprivation. She should also make sure that she continues her education while at sea. Laura said she wanted to study online while sailing.

Laura's father supports Laura in her ambitions, but her mother has said she is having second thoughts about the risky journey. Laura's parents are separated and she lives with her father, who is an accomplished yachtsman himself.

In the meantime, Californian 16-year-old is currently crossing the Indian Ocean in her Open 40, and heading for her last big test, back into the Southern Ocean again to round the southern tip of Tasmania. She has been gamely overcoming some quite serious problems on her yacht... but more of that in another article!
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