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Laura Dekker, 16-year-old super solo sailor, on her final leg

by Nancy Knudsen on 16 Dec 2011
Capetown goodbye - photo from Jetsetting Magazine SW
Laura Dekker, Dutch/New Zealander 16-year-old solo sailor, who is circumnavigating the globe in her 38ft Jeanneau Ginfizz ketch, Guppy, has left Cape Town on the last long leg across the Atlantic which, all going well, will complete her circumnavigation.

Reaching Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, which she left on 5th January 2011, will make her the world's youngest ever circumnavigator.

However, a vicarious association with Laura over a long period of time (she first hit the headlines when she sailed the English Channel at the age of 13 and on arrival was promptly deposited in a Children's Home) suggests that the adventure she has undertaken is much more about the journey and less about the glory.

The voyage she has now undertaken, perhaps with stops at islands along the way is a journey of some 4000 nautical miles and perhaps the most challenging. (See map and apologies for the art work - Laura is not likely to clip off the edge of South America.) Her yacht Guppy has performed creditably along the journey with little serious trouble since she left Gibraltar in September 2010.

This does not mean that her journey has been any easy one. She has battled storms and high winds, long periods of serious sleep deprivation and blown out sails. 'On the one leg I blew my Genoa and Main sail which was challenging as I limped to the next port so I could get up and running again.'

The proven sturdiness of Guppy can be thanks to the work she and her father put into making her strong enough for the long miles she was planning. 'I picked Guppy up incredibly cheap, she was a wreck. With a lot of help from my dad, we did her up to the magnificent ocean crossing vessel that she is today.'

It is perhaps not so strange that Laura has taken to a sea life. As she recounted in a recent interview with Sophie Thompson of East Coast Radio, 'When I was five my Dad packed my family up and we set sail from Whangarei in New Zealand, where I was born. We sailed all the way to Holland on my father’s boat. I believe that I am a doer and when I get an idea in my head, I usually strive to achieve it.'

Laura has been in Cape Town for several days, enjoying some leisure time and stocking up for this one last leg of her circumnavigation - but not the last leg of her journey. Once she reaches the Caribbean, she will continue through the Panama Canal for a second time and head back to New Zealand, which she missed last time round.

'I will make my way back to Whangarei in New Zealand where I hope to settle and maybe call home.'

Right now, after negotiating shipping channels and a very windy start from Capetown ('and the wind was from the wrong direction' she complained on her blog,) she is now becalmed until the next system passes through. 'I know the first 500nm will not be easy sailing', she says, but, in her typical low-key response, seems relaxed about 'toughing it out.'

Bon Voyage Laura!

To follow Laura's blog, go to her English language http://www.lauradekker.nl/English/Home.html!website.
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