Laura Dekker. If you’re not familiar with the name yet, you will be soon, especially if you’re part of the boating community. The 14 year old Dutch girl has just received permission from her mom and the Dutch court system to set sail in an attempt to become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe. It appears she has everything she needs: a state of the art sailboat with new equipment, boat insurance, a lot of sailing experience, and the support of her family and government.
The crazy thing is, even if she succeeds, she might never get credit for the accomplishment. With the increasing scrutiny of young sailors vying for record setting circumnavigation voyages, the record keeping organizations have stopped recognizing such records. Unless something changes, the “official” record will always belong to Mike Perham, who was seventeen when he completed his voyage a year ago.
Despite the formal acknowledgements, young sailors continue to make attempts to be the youngest ever to sail around the globe. Jessica Watson unofficially shattered Perham’s record in May. In turn her record was almost beaten by the ill fated Abby Sunderland, who would have completed her trip around the world at the ripe old age of 16 if she had not run into equipment problems and rough seas.
Abby Sunderland’s parents have come under a good deal of harsh criticism for allowing their 16 year old daughter to attempt to sail around the world by herself, something that was no doubt on the minds of Laura Dekker’s mother when she originally told her daughter that she wasn’t allowed to attempt the long journey. The Dutch courts agreed with mom that the then 13 year old Laura should not be allowed to go on such a dangerous journey.
So, Laura Dekker did precocious 13 year olds anywhere on the planet do when parents or the legal system tell them they can’t do something. She tried to do it anyway. The crazy thing is that she almost got away with it. She wasn’t caught until someone recognized her on the Dutch Island of St. Maarten. When this kid runs away, she really knows how to do it right. That’s over 4,000 miles from the Netherlands. We wonder if her parents kept the boat insurance up while they were looking for her.
So what difference does a year make? We don’t know, either. Apparently, though, it makes all the difference in the world both to young Ms. Dekker’s mother and the Dutch court system, both of who now approve of Dekker’s current bid to become the youngest person to solo circumnavigate the earth.
It’s good to know that the Dutch government approves. I wonder how the US government feels about such trips? I caught my 3 year old playing with a toy sailboat in the bathtub yesterday and have been thinking the kid just might have a shot at an unofficial, unrecognized record. At the very least, it’d be worth some publicity.
Photo via mikebaird