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Girl, 14, in solo world boat trip

A 14-year-old Dutch sailor has departed from Portugal on her quest to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, according to her manager.

Peter Klarenbeek said Laura Dekker had set off despite almost windless conditions from a Portuguese port he would not specify "because she did not want to speak to the media".

Klarenbeek said Laura was in a very good mood as she set off on her year-long trip to circumnavigate the globe.

Child protection authorities have questioned the wisdom of allowing a youngster to take on the risk of sailing the world's oceans alone, but Laura says she has the navigating skills and endurance of an adult.

Laura had been scheduled to depart from the town of Portimao and media from around the world had gathered to record her but by noon local time no one had seen her or her red-hulled ship.

The young sailor's website has links titled "My Coordinates" and "Where is Laura". Neither was working and a porthole-shaped counter of the days of her voyage was at zero.

Voyage sponsor Ferry Dammers turned up at Portimao with a banner to display on board Laura's boat as it left.

"I am disappointed, I have the banner here but when I spoke to Klarenbeek he informed me Laura had already set off on her journey," Dammers said.

A court last month released Laura from the guardianship of Dutch child protection agencies who had tried to block her voyage because of fears about her safety and psychological health.

Marijke Schaaphok, the director of Masmedia, a company filming the trip with remote cameras mounted on Laura's boat, defended the girl's push to sail around the world, saying Laura is mature for her age and has proven she can sail Guppy across oceans after passing a maritime exam in the Netherlands for a vessel of her boat's size.

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