Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

You’re too young to sail around world, 13-year-old is told

A 13-year-old Dutch girl's attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the globe has been blocked by a court which placed her under state supervision for two months.

Laura Dekker, an experienced sailor who was born at sea on her parents' boat in New Zealand, had planned to set sail on a two-year voyage in September on her 8.3 metre (27ft) yacht Guppy.

Child protection authorities in Holland argued it would be irresponsible to let her depart, and the court in Utrecht agreed, saying the trip would put Dekker's psychological development at risk. She will remain with her parents, who will share custody with the state.

The court voiced “serious concerns” about Dekker's mental and physical development on the boat, and ordered a psychologist and child protection authorities to examine how she would cope with loneliness, sea winds, lack of sleep and schooling, as well as her general physical safety.

On Thursday, British 17-year-old Mike Perham became the youngest person to sail around the globe single-handed after spending nine months at sea, eclipsing the record set by American Zac Sunderland last month.

Dekker's lawyer, Peter de Lange, said he was confident the issue could be resolved and that her trip would go ahead.

“She is happy with the ruling, and now we can prepare this (journey) in a mature and responsible way,” De Lange said, adding that Dekker was out sailing on Friday. Her father was in court for the verdict, but did not speak to reporters.

Dekker, whose parents support her trip, had warned before the ruling she would emigrate to New Zealand, where she can also claim citizenship, if the court prevented her from attempting the voyage. But Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported her New Zealand passport had expired.

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