Dutch teenager finishes world solo-yacht trip

Laura Dekker, 16, becomes youngest person to complete round-the-world voyage following year-long journey.


    A Dutch teenager has completed a year-long solo journey around the world in a sailboat, arriving at the Carribbean island of St Maarten on board her vessel, named "Guppy".

    Dozens of people cheered as Laura Dekker, 16, pumped her fist into the air in celebration as she sailed past a drawbridge raised for her arrival at the island's port on Saturday.

    Dekker, who says she is the youngest sailor to complete a round-the-world voyage, had set off from the same harbour on January 20, 2011.

    Guinness World Records, an organisation that verifies and compiles data on world record attempts, says it will not verify this particular record, as it does not wish to encourage dangerous attempts.

    Dutch officials tried to block her trip, arguing that she was too young to risk her life, and school authorities complained that she should have been in a classroom, not braving the world's seas.

    In August 2010, she won a ten-month long court case against child welfare authorities, who contended that she was too young for her safety at sea to be guaranteed.

    The last leg of the journey took Dekker through high seas and heavy winds from Cape Town, South Africa.

    She hugged her family and wept before addressing the crowd.

    'Just amazing'

    Dekker was born aboard a boat and first sailed solo at age six. At 10, she said, she began dreaming aobut circling the globe.

    "Her story is just amazing," said one of Dekker's fans, 10-year-old Jody Bell of Connecticut. "I can't imagine someone her age going out on sea all by herself."

    The teenager, who turns 17 on September 20, has beaten the current record for being the youngest sailor to make an unassisted world tour by about eight months.

    The current record holder is Australian Jessica Watson, who achieved it in May 2010, three days before she turned 17.

    Unlike Watson, who circumnavigated non-stop, Dekker sailed from port-to-port, never spending more than three weeks at sea in a single journey.

    Gerard van Erp, Dekker's manager, has stressed that what matters to the teenager is not the record. "What is important, is for her dream to become reality," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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