Dutch teenager sets new solo sailing record

Sixteen-year-old battles seas, and child welfare authorities, to become youngest to sail the globe

She sailed in the face of critics who said she was too young to attempt such a feat. But last night, 16-year-old Laura Dekker proved her detractors wrong by fulfilling her ambition to sail solo around the world.

The Dutch teenager, who celebrated her 16th birthday at sea, breezed into St Maarten harbour ahead of schedule last night,a year and a day after she embarked from the same Caribbean island aboard her 38ft fibreglass sailboat Guppy.

On dry land and reunited with her parents and grandparents, she said: "There were moments where I was like, 'What the hell am I doing out here?' But I never wanted to stop. It's a dream, and I wanted to do it."

Supporters cheered as she walked across the dock with her family. She is more than seven months younger than the Australian Jessica Watson, who completed a non-stop navigation in 2010 just before her 17th birthday. Miss Dekker therefore lays claim to be the youngest person to complete such a round-the-world feat. Yet, because ofthe controversy that surrounded the voyage , Guinness World Records decided to stop recognising records for youngest sailors to discourage dangerous attempts. The World Sailing Speed Record Council has also announced recently that it will not recognise "youngest sailor" records.

Miss Dekker became the centre of global media attention in 2009 when Dutch officials tried to scupper the teenager's plans, arguing she should have been in a classroom rather than navigating the world's oceans. They took their battle to court on a number of occasions. Child court judges eventually relented, with the condition that she continue her schoolwork online.

During her 12 months circumnavigating the globe, she claims to have had "a lifetime of experiences". The trip took her toAustralia and the Cape of Good Hope. She said the size of her achievement was "slowly sinking in".

Miss Dekker's latest run-in with the Dutch authorities came as she was battling heavy seas on her Atlantic crossing. While she was busy trying to keep the yacht safe, Dutch officials overseeing her welfare took it as a sign that she was neglecting her homework.

Miss Dekker was, appropriately, born on a boat in Whangarei, New Zealand, and it is this country's flag she flew from Guppy when she arrived back in harbour at St Maarten. She has spoken of how difficult she feels it will be for her to return to the Netherlands and instead plans to go to New Zealand.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore