Laura Dekker

Youngest person to solo circumnavigate the globe on a sail boat

Dekker, Laura.jpg

"Laura Dekker is a New Zealand born, Dutch sailor. In 2009, she announced her plan to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. A Dutch court stepped in, owing to the objections of the local authorities, and prevented Dekker from departing while under shared custody of both her parents. In July 2010, a Dutch family court ended this custody arrangement, and the record-breaking attempt finally began on 21 August 2010. Dekker successfully completed the solo circumnavigation in an 11.5-metre (38 ft) two-masted ketch, arriving in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, 518 days later at the age of 16...

 

Dekker spent the first five years of her life at sea, and sailed often with her father after the family's return to the Netherlands. She has owned several boats, all named Guppy. The first was an Optimist she received for her sixth birthday, and which she promptly learned to sail solo, initially accompanied by her father on a windsurfer...

 

In the summer of 2006, after assisting her father in a 24-hour sailing race aboard a friend's Hurley 700, she received permission from the boat's owner to borrow it for personal use, in return for cleaning and maintenance. It was just at the 7 m limit below which Dutch law imposes on captains under the age of 16. Sailing it often, she christened this boat Guppy as well. In the summer of 2007, she took it on a more ambitious 6-week sailing tour of the Wadden Sea, accompanied by her dog Spot...

 

Over the following school year, she began preparing herself and Guppy for open-ocean sailing, with the goal of a round-the-world tour. In March, her father told her to gain some experience with the open sea by first sailing to England. This was intended to discourage her; the strong currents, rough weather, and heavy shipping make the English Channel notoriously difficult for sailboats.

 

She spent the next eight weeks preparing Guppy for that trip. On the evening of Friday, 1 May, at the beginning of a 12-day school vacation, she sailed away from Maurik without specifying a destination to her father.

 

She sailed to the coast and arrived in Maassluis Saturday afternoon. Early Sunday morning, she set out across the Channel, but weak winds delayed her arrival until Monday morning. Docking in Lowestoft, she e-mailed word of her success from a local library. Local authorities requested her father to come and accompany her on her return voyage. Her father responded that she could sail back by herself. Local authorities instead placed her in a children's home until he came to retrieve her. He returned her to her boat and flew home himself. She left England on Monday, 11 May. With a strong wind this time (up to force 7), the return trip was much faster, reaching Rotterdam by the morning of the 12th and arriving home that evening.

 

In August 2009, Dekker announced her plan for a two-year solo sailing voyage around the globe in the Dutch national newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad. Her father was in support of her plans. Dekker planned to sail a seagoing 38-ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch, also named Guppy. The boat was equipped for long-distance sailing and adapted for solo-circumnavigation. The planned route started from Portugal westwards, to cruise the Caribbean and then to go through Panama and past Indonesia. She then planned either to go past Somalia to the Mediterranean, or around Africa, should piracy become a serious concern. Her plan was to make around 26 stops.

 

The original plan called for Dekker to be met at 14 locations by a support team, which also would help her along difficult spots such as the Panama Canal. In reality, for cost reasons, people from home (mostly family members) met her only five times, although she was given some assistance by other leisure sailors she met, for example through the Panama Canal. The plan said she would not be sailing for more than three weeks between stops. After Australia she however decided to skip some stops so she in reality did two 6–7 weeks long legs.

 

An Iridium tracking system onboard allowed a team in the Netherlands to monitor her course closely. She planned to avoid the stormy roaring forties (although the South Africa route gave her at least one storm) and the hurricane season (which she spent in the Canary Islands) during which she flew home to study (done once but not during the hurricane season)...

 

Dekker sailed from Den Osse, Netherlands, on 4 August 2010, headed for Portugal. This segment did not constitute part of the solo circumnavigation, as her father was on board to coach her and test the new boat. The published plan was that the solo voyage would commence from Lisbon. Instead, Dekker and her father sailed to Portimão, arriving on 15 August. She sailed with others from Portimão to Gibraltar on 18–20 August, because according to Portuguese law, she was too young to be formally qualified to captain her ship (Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory subject to British law, though Dekker made her departure from Gibraltar in secret in order to avoid both the press and any maritime police)." (1)

From Wikipedia



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