July 27, 2010 / 1:52 PM / 9 years ago

Dutch sailor, 14, cleared for solo world voyage

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch court cleared the way Tuesday for teen-ager Laura Dekker to try to become the youngest person to sail round the world solo, ending state supervision of the 14 year-old.

The sailor, who was born on her parents’ yacht off New Zealand, had planned to start the two-year voyage last September but a court blocked her departure, saying the trip was a risk to her safety.

Before Tuesday’s ruling, Laura said on her website that she would depart from Portugal if the court allowed the journey.

“I will leave as quickly as possible, as soon as my boat is ready and equipped. It is then dependent though on the weather,” she wrote, adding that she could leave within two weeks.

Earlier this month child welfare authorities had requested a year’s extension to their supervision of Laura.

But the court in the southwestern town of Middelburg ruled Tuesday that she could attempt the record voyage, provided that both her parents gave their consent.

“The court ... could not determine that Laura was at risk, either in her social-emotional or character development, as suggested by the Council for the Protection of Children,” the court said in its ruling that put Laura back into the full responsibility of her parents.

Laura’s father, whom she lives with, is in favor of the journey while her mother has dropped her earlier opposition.

Dismayed by the legal battle last year, Laura fled in December to the island of St. Martin in the Dutch Antilles, where she wanted to buy a boat and attempt the journey from there. She was later escorted home by police.

A Dutch court then kept Laura under state supervision, but left the door open for her voyage if she practiced more, attended school and waited until at least July this year.

Last month, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland from California was rescued from the Indian Ocean during a round-the-world solo attempt after her mast snapped.

Seventeen-year-old Briton Mike Perham became the youngest person to sail round the globe single-handed in 2009, a voyage that took nine months but was not officially recognized as a complete circumnavigation.

Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block and Reed Stevenson; editing by David Stamp

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