PORTIMAO, Portugal – A 14-year-old Dutch girl will set off today on a controversial attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, her representatives said.
Laura Dekker’s ambition of completing the yearlong trip has fueled a global debate over the wisdom of allowing young sailors to take on the tremendous risks of sailing the high seas alone.
The girl plans to depart from a marina in the resort city of Portimao at the southwestern tip of Portugal.
Late Friday, seas were so calm that the ocean looked like a mirror, and Laura was still out in her boat, performing last-minute tests on her red-hulled 38-foot yacht named Guppy.
A court last month released Laura from the guardianship of Dutch child protection agencies who had tried to block her voyage because of fears about her safety.
Marijke Schaaphok, the director of Masmedia, a company filming the trip with remote cameras mounted on Laura’s boat, defended the girl’s push to sail around the world, saying Laura is mature for her age and has proven that she can sail Guppy across oceans after passing a maritime exam in the Netherlands for a vessel of her boat’s size.