Dutch girl (16) fulfils dream as youngest to sail round the world

THE CHANGE of flag on her modest sail boat said it all.

Dutch schoolgirl sailor Laura Dekker, who has fulfilled her dream to become the youngest round-the-world sailor, arrived late on Saturday on the Dutch Antillean Island of St Maarten in the Caribbean, a year and a day after starting her epic voyage and breaking all the records she set out to surpass.

But the red, white and blue flag representing the Netherlands which had fluttered at the stern of her 30-year-old yacht Guppy on her departure had been replaced by the flag of New Zealand. Born at sea on a yacht in New Zealand waters, Laura Dekker has joint Dutch and New Zealand citizenship.

Raising the New Zealand flag was a deliberate gesture, she later acknowledged, a sign of her anger and frustration at how she was treated by the Dutch authorities, who, she claims, did everything to destroy her dream.

It was 16-year-old Laura Dekker’s way of letting Dutch social services know what she really thought of them, highlighting the controversial battle over this particular bid to be the “youngest around the world”.

At the age of 13, Laura, supported by her father, had been about to set out to sail solo around the world, but at the last-minute alarm bells had sounded and Dutch child welfare officers were called in. A major controversy ensued with international media exposure for Laura amid scrutiny of her sailing skills and psychological state, parental control and other matters – leading to questions being asked in the Dutch parliament.

There was much soul-searching over the wisdom of parents allowing children to follow their dream, considering the dangers involved. In the end, Laura Dekker virtually became a ward of court. Then, just before her 15th birthday, she went back to court in the Netherlands and she and her lawyers convinced judges she was capable of sailing around the world unaided, could physically deal with all the pressures involved and had enough expertise and sufficient mental stamina to follow her dream.

Laura,s arduous court battle was a complicated one. After the authorities decreed that she should remain under the scrutiny of the youth welfare services when she was 14, she fled her home in a village near the city of Utrecht and, after an international police alert, turned up on the island of St Maarten – which has become the symbolic start and end point of her round-the-world voyage.

Earlier this month, truancy officers had issued Laura,s father with a summons claiming she had been failing to complete her school work. In fact, during her year at sea she managed to accomplish most of her class work, it has been confirmed.

The Dekker family’s lawyer Peter de Lange said: “Laura is doing her best, but the school knew before she set off that there would be times when she might not be able to meet the deadlines.”

Guinness Book of Records has scrapped all records for youngest sailors to discourage dangerous atempts. Laura – who will write a book about her adventures over more than 27,000 nautical miles – said in her blog she was far more haunted by memories of Dutch social services threatening to lock her up again and again to stop her bid to sail around the world than she was scared of the threat of pirate kidnappings, treacherous seas or being shipwrecked.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/0123/1224310625456.html

 

 

 Laura Dekker is met 16 jaar en 123 dagen, de jongste wereldomzeiler ooit geworden. Geboren op een boot in Nieuw-Zeeland, droomt ze van jongs af aan van zeilen. Laura is alleen meer een doener dan een dromer, dus die dromen duren niet lang. Op haar zesde zeilt ze dan ook al alleen in haar optimist over het meer waaraan ze woont. Op haar 8ste in een Miror. Dan is het meer nog groot genoeg, zo groot als de zee lijkt het, maar op haar tiende allang niet meer.

Met haar Hurley 700 Guppy zeilt ze via het ijsselmeer naar Friesland, waar ze zes weken in de schoolvakantie rond zeilt en vele nieuwe vriendinnen ontmoet. Niet iedereen is het daar mee eens, ze heeft meer last van onwillige sluiswachters dan van slecht weer. Zoals alle vakanties smaakt ook deze, vooral deze, naar meer. De volgende zomer gaat ze dan ook snel weer op pad. Ze belandt weer in Friesland en beleeft avonturen op het Wad.

Achter het Wad ligt de zee en daar wachten haar echte dromen. Een wereldreis, als jongste ooit. “Ho”, zegt haar vader, “nu ga je wel erg ver.” Dat begrijpt Laura best, maar niet van harte. Samen besluiten ze dat ze eerst maar eens naar Engeland moet varen. Laura staat al bijna aan boord als haar vader haar terugroept. Eerst wat lesjes volgen.

In de tijd daarna buigt ze zich over getijden en het weer, berekent ze koersen en leert ze alles over de regels en veiligheid. Op haar dertiende is ze er klaar voor. Guppy verlaat de haven van Maurik en zet koers naar Engeland. Een week later is ze terug. “Zo lang alleen op zee, met wind, regen en golven, die zal wel genezen zijn”, hoopt haar vader stiekempjes. “Dat smaakt naar meer”, zegt Laura hardop.

Zo begon haar avontuur. Net als eerder in Friesland en later in Engeland was niet iedereen het daar mee eens. Laura trekt zich daar niets van aan: “Mensen zijn ook niets meer gewend tegenwoordig.”