Laura Dekker, 14 years old, set sail alone on Saturday. She is attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo.
She left Gibraltar for the first leg of her journey, and is expected to arrive in the Canary Islands in about 10 days. Her boat, named ‘Guppy, is a 38-foot Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch rigged sailboat. Dekker’s around the world circumnavigation is expected to take two years. She will be stopping at harbors along the way.
To be the youngest sailor to make a solo circumnavigation, she will need to complete her trip by September 12, 2012. The current record is held by Jessica Watson, who sailed non-stop, and completed her trip just a few days before her 17th birthday. The record for the youngest sailor to travel around the world solo is ‘unofficial’. Neither the World Sailing Speed Record Council, nor the Guiness Book Of World Records, will document the accomplishment, saying that they do not want to encourage such a dangerous endeavor.
Dekker’s attempt comes with controversy. Dutch child protection services took her into guardianship in an attempt to block her solo voyage. After additional preparations were made, including a sturdier ship, courses on first aid and sleep deprivation, and practice on a solo sail across the North Sea, a judge ruled that her preparations were adequate and that her parents, who are divorced, could decide about the trip.
Two months ago, Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American girl, had to be rescued from a remote region of the Indian Ocean. Her ship had been dismasted in heavy seas, four and a half months into her circumnavigation attempt.