World’s Youngest Solo Circumnavigator – Her Journey Begins Tomorrow!
Dutch 14-year-old Laura Dekker will leave Portimão, Portugal, tomorrow to begin her attempt to become the world’s youngest solo circumnavigator. Her manager Peter Klarenbeek said the teenager was at sea today doing final equipment tests before leaving tomorrow on a journey that could take up to two years.
Dekker arrived in Portugal on her red-hulled, 11.5-metre ketch Guppy last Saturday with her father after a ten-day voyage from her native Netherlands. She left Den Osse in the southwest Netherlands days after winning a 10-month court battle with child welfare authorities who had been trying to stop the voyage going ahead, because of fears for her safety and psychological health.
Dekker plans to sail seagoing Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch 38ft, also named Guppy. The boat will be equipped for long-distance sailing and adapted for solo-circumnavigation. The route is planned to go from Portugal westwards, cruising the Caribbean, go through Panama and past Indonesia. Then she plans either to go past Somalia to the Mediterranean, or around Africa if piracy is of concern. She plans around 26 stops.
At 14 locations Dekker will be met by a support team that follows the same route. It will also help her along difficult spots such as the Panama Canal. An Iridium tracking system onboard will allow a team in the Netherlands to monitor her course closely. This route is not necessarily less risky compared to the non-stop route of Jessica Watson or the two-stop route of Abby Sunderland. This is because the risk of colliding with a ship or to run aground is much larger near land than on open ocean. Also the risk of being a crime victim is larger in a port city than on the sea. Dekker will still have to cross the big oceans. On the other hand she will avoid the stormy roaring forties, and she will avoid the hurricane seasons which otherwise makes latitudes 20-30 dangerous.
It is believed she chose to start and end her journey in Portugal, as Dutch law forbids children under the age of 16 skippering boats that measure more than seven metres. Dekker plans to stop at several ports en route and will not round the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin or Cape Horn. She turns 17 in Septmber 2012, leaving her with two years to complete the trip in order to beat the existing record, currently held by Australian Jessica Watson, who finished her non-stop, unassisted voyage in May.