Laura Dekker, 14, okayed to sail round the world
Dutch teenager wins court appeal against ban on round-the-world trip
An increasing number of adventurous adolescents are helping to explode the myth that the interests of teenage girls stretch little further than boy bands and nail varnish. Sailing single-handedly round the world is now, like, totally cool.
In May this year 16-year-old Australian sailor Jessica Watson circumnavigated the globe in 210 days in her 34-foot yacht, Ella's Pink Lady, surpassing the record set by her compatriot Jesse Martin (18 at the time) in 1999.
Then, last month, 16-year-old American sailor Abby Sunderland was thwarted in her endeavour to sail the world by a snapped mast in the Indian Ocean.
Now the latest teenager to try the feat is 14-year-old Dutch girl Laura Dekker, though her bid has been fraught with controversy ever since she first announced she intended to sail round the world.
That was last year, when she was just 13, prompting an outcry in Holland and leading the Dutch courts to block her attempt by making her a ward of court. Undeterred, Dekker appealed the decision and this week the guardianship order was repealed, to the disappointment of Holland’s Council for Child Protection, which had asked for it to be prolonged for a further year.
Dekker, who was born on a boat off New Zealand waters, plans to set sail as soon as possible in pursuit of Watson’s record. Writing on her blog, Dekker said: "If everything works out the way I want, I can leave for Portugal sometime in the next two weeks."
The news will further divide the sailing community, and the wider world at large, over the risks inherent in allowing teenagers to tackle the world’s oceans.
Many people see it as unnecessarily dangerous and as one sailor wrote on a yachting website shortly after Abby Sunderland’s mid-ocean rescue by a French vessel: "Send her parents a bill for the rescue. They placed her in this incredibly stupid situation... Why should taxpayers from any country be expected to pay for her rescue?"
That’s not the way the girls themselves see it, of course. They are helping a write another chapter in the long history of human endeavour.
"People don't think you're capable of these things, they don't realise what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," said Jessica Watson when she arrived back in Australia two months ago. "It's amazing when you take away those expectations what you can do." ·
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