Teenager cleared to make solo trip around the world

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The Independent Online

A Dutch court cleared the way yesterday for the teenager Laura Dekker to try to become the youngest person to sail round the world solo, ending state supervision of the 14-year-old.

The sailor, who was born on her parents' yacht off New Zealand, had planned to start the two-year voyage last September, but a court blocked her departure saying the trip was a risk to her safety.

Before yesterday's ruling, Laura said on her website that she would depart from Portugal if the court allowed the journey.

"I will leave as quickly as possible, as soon as my boat is ready and equipped. It is then dependent though on the weather," she wrote, adding that she could leave within two weeks. Earlier this month child welfare authorities had requested a year's extension to their supervision of the teenager.

But the court, in the south-western town of Middelburg, ruled that she could attempt the record voyage, provided that both her parents gave their consent.

"The court... could not determine that Laura was at risk, either in her social-emotional or character development, as suggested by the Council for the Protection of Children," the court said in its ruling, which puts Laura back into the full responsibility of her parents.

Laura's father, whom she lives with, supports the idea while her mother has dropped her earlier opposition.

Dismayed by the legal battle last year, Laura fled in December to the island of St Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where she had wanted to buy a boat and attempt the journey from there. She was later escorted home by police.