Dutch 14-year-old sets sail for solo world voyage

Wed Aug 4, 2010 10:30am EDT
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By Svebor Kranjc

DEN OSSE, Netherlands (Reuters) - Dutch teenager Laura Dekker headed for the open sea on Wednesday after winning a year-long battle with child welfare authorities over her ambition to become the youngest person to sail the globe solo.

Laura, 14, departed from the southwestern Netherlands on her 11.5-meter ketch Guppy, headed initially for Portugal with her father to complete final preparations before starting the official solo part of her journey from there.

A Dutch court ended state supervision of Laura last week, saying she had met all conditions imposed by child welfare authorities and that the journey would pose no risk to her social and emotional development.

"Since I was eight years old, I wanted to sail around the world and when I was 10 I was really sure I wanted to sail off, but then my parents didn't approve of it," Laura said while on the pier next to her boat, shortly before departure.

A large crowd of journalists and observers came to watch Laura set off and she was followed in the water by other boats as she sailed toward the open sea.

"We want to be sure that the boat is completely ready, so this is the last test sail, and from Portugal I start officially by myself, sailing alone toward the Canary Islands," she said.

Laura, an experienced sailor who was born on her parents' boat in New Zealand, aims to beat the record for the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe.

Her ambition, however, has raised concerns about increasingly younger sailors attempting such voyages.   Continued...

<p>Laura Dekker of the Netherlands waves to well wishers as she sails her boat Guppy out of the harbour of Den Osse August 4, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Kooren</p>