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Laura Dekker sets sail on her round-the-world journey Fourteen-year-old Laura Dekker waves as she sets sail from the Netherlands in her boat, Guppy, on August 4, 2010. Laura's goal is to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo. (Photo: Michael Kooren/Reuters/NewsCom)

Teen Sailor Tries to Make History

Dutch girl sets sail on a voyage that will take her around the globe—by herself

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null

Fourteen-year-old Laura Dekker hopes to become the youngest person to sail around the world by herself. She set sail from Den Osse in her home country of the Netherlands on Wednesday, August 11. Her father, Dick Dekker, is sailing south with his daughter in her 38-foot yacht, named Guppy, as far as Portugal. Then Laura will leave her father and continue on a watery path that will take her around the world, where she may have to face high winds, heavy rains, and even pirates.

Laura had to win a battle in court before she could begin to battle the high seas. Dutch child-protection agencies said that Laura was too young to make such a dangerous trip by herself. They feared the yearlong voyage would take too much of a toll on her mental and physical health, so they prevented her from trying the adventure last year at age 13.

The young teen spent the past year trying to prove her seaworthiness to Dutch authorities. She and her parents bought a bigger, sturdier boat. Laura took first-aid classes and practiced dealing with sleep deprivation, or lack of sleep—something she will likely face during her solo sail. She also took a practice solo voyage from the North Sea to the United Kingdom to prove her sailing skills.

The Dutch court decided last week that their concerns had been satisfied and left the decision up to her parents. Laura's parents gave their blessing, and now she is on her way.

Record Will Be Unofficial

If Laura completes her solo-sail-around-the-world, there will not be an official record that she was the youngest to do it. Guinness World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council no longer recognize the achievements of the youngest sailors. The organizations do not want to encourage kids who are simply too young to take on dangerous journeys for which they may not be ready.

Just last month, 16-year-old American sailor Abby Sunderland had to be rescued when a storm smashed the mast of the boat she was sailing around the world and left her stranded in the Indian Ocean.


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