Laura Dekker, in her second outing to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo, has departed secretly from an undisclosed port in Gibraltar — avoiding the media because, her manager said, she didn’t want the attention. Her 38-foot yacht “Guppy” set sail from the British territory bordering the southwestern tip of Spain and the trip is expected to last a year or more according to her manager, Peter Klarenbeek. Her attempt also has a partner in Holland’s MasMedia company, which has exclusive TV rights to film her voyage. Why the secrecy and the subterfuge?
Born on her parents’ boat in New Zealand, Laura spent the first four years of her life at sea and had intended to start a two-year solo, global voyage, but the Utrecht District Court ruled she was too inexperienced, in 2009. Unable to handle the pressure of the media and the legal tangle, she ran away from home and then came back voluntarily to Netherlands, where she was kept under the custory of the Child Care authorities, since her parents are divorced. Her father Dick Dekker who is the driving force behind her seems to be quite confident of his daughter’s big dream to create the ‘youngest sailor’ world record. There are a number of puzzling corners to this whole ‘exercise as one sees it’, right from what Laura Dekker and her media managers look to achieve from this solo trip.
Laura Dekker aims at breaking the record of Australian sailor Jessica Watson, 16 who completed an epic-solo trip around the world after 210 days at sea and having sailed 23,000 nautical miles. It was non-stop, and she was connected to the world at all times through her video blog enabling her support system to monitor her progress, from any part of the globe, with the help of a delighted global community. The bonhomie and the meticulous engagement with the outside world seems to be lacking in this case with not a single update on her trip since she set sail on Saturday August 21, 2010. None of the site links that updates and charts her progress seems to be working 3 days she embarked on Guppy.
She is en route to Spain’s Canary Islands or Portugal’s Madeira Island, depending on the wind, after which she plans to head through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean, and on to Australia, the southern tip of India and through the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean.
Her first 48 hours seems to have gone smoothly, according to her manager, Peter Klarenbeek , who says “she plans to spend at least two months in the Canary Islands 1,380 kilometers (858 miles) off Spain’s southwestern tip waiting for the Atlantic storm season to abate. While there she will catch up on her schoolwork, receive family visits and install cameras on her yacht for a film to be made of the voyage”. Described as wise, impatient, “mature for her age” and “uniquely qualified for the ambitious sea venture because she grew up with her father on a boat,”the worldwide web has been simmering with gathering outrage against a 14-year old being let alone at sea, on a 38-foot yacht, with the memories of Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old American, had to be rescued in a remote section of the Indian Ocean during an attempt to circle the globe.
Also, if Laura completes the voyage, any record she claims would be unofficial and likely to be challenged. The Guinness’ World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council have decided they will no longer recognize records for “youngest” sailors to avoid encouraging dangerous attempts.