Dutch teenage sailor stays with father, voyage planned

Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:01pm EST
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By Aaron Gray-Block

UTRECHT, The Netherlands (Reuters) - A Dutch court allowed teenage sailor Laura Dekker to stay in her father's care on Wednesday following her disappearance last week, raising hope she could start on her longed-for round-the-world voyage.

Dekker, 14, went missing last Thursday after welfare authorities blocked her attempt to become the youngest person to sail single-handed around the world. She was found on the island of St. Martin in the Dutch Antilles and flown home on Tuesday to face a legal storm over her future.

After her disappearance last week, the welfare authorities sought to have Dekker removed from her home and placed in a crisis shelter.

"I have just got a text message from her. She is very happy," said Mariska Woertman, a family spokeswoman, adding that Dekker had jumped in the air with happiness.

Dekker, who was born on her parents' boat in New Zealand, and is a dual Dutch-New Zealand national, had intended to start a two-year solo voyage round the world financed by sponsors on September 1. But a court blocked her departure and placed her under state supervision, saying the trip posed risks to her safety.

Dekker was required to practice more, attend school and wait until at least July 2010 before attempting her trip. The court said on Wednesday welfare authorities and Dekker's father had hitherto been unable to co-operate on drawing up a plan.

"Because these conditions were not worked on, Laura got caught in a downward spiral," the presiding judge said.

DREAM VOYAGE   Continued...

<p>Dick Dekker, father of Dutch teenage sailor Laura Dekker whose round-the-world voyage was blocked by the courts, smiles while giving his statement to the media at the courtroom in Utrecht, the Netherlands December 23, 2009. Dekker fled last week to the Caribbean island of St. Martin to buy a boat and start her voyage, her lawyer said Wednesday. REUTERS/Michael Kooren</p>