Dutch girl youngest to sail around-the-globe solo

January 22nd, 2012 - 3:06 am ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 21 (IANS) Dutch teenager Laura Dekker was expected to complete her 27,000-mile voyage Saturday afternoon at the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, a year and a day after she set out to sail single-handed around the globe, the daily Telegraph reported.

Dekker, who is 16 years and four months old, has cut six months off the unofficial record set in 2010 by Australian teenager Jessica Watson, who was days away from her 17th birthday when she completed her own non-stop voyage.

Dekker has had to cope with weeks of solitude, ocean storms and a fear of pirates while navigating and sailing a 38-foot yacht called Guppy, all the time trying to keep up with her schoolwork.

But she will not be sailing into the record books. After the controversy she caused when she announced she was going to try to break the record in a small boat aged just 13, the Guinness Book of Records decided to stop recognising records for “youngest” sailors.

Dekker fled abroad in 2010 when Dutch child welfare authorities took legal action to try to stop her making the voyage. She later won a 10-month court battle, promising judges she would buy a bigger boat with advanced navigation equipment, take courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation, and enrol in a special correspondence school.

Her grandparents, divorced parents, and younger sister Kim are among those waiting to greet her in the Dutch Caribbean island of Saint Martin, her starting point last January.

She is finishing a long leg from her last port of call in South Africa in November. “A small flotilla will sail out to greet her, including the coast guard, and then we have a big ceremony planned in the yacht club,” said her manager Gerard van Erp, who is in daily radio contact with Dekker.

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