Teenager Laura Dekker has been put under temporary court supervision so that social workers can make a proper assessment of the likely affect of her efforts to become the youngest person to sail solo round the world, a court in Utrecht ruled on Friday.
The court said it was not yet clear what the affect of the two-year voyage – which will include long periods without direct human contact – would be on Dekker, who is about to turn 14. Although she is an experienced sailor and her father says she is mature for her age, officials have not been able to question the girl herself because ‘they could not reach her’, the court said.
The girl and her mother were not in court to hear the ruling but her father was.
Dekker had planned to leave on her eight-metre-long boat named Guppy at the beginning of September.
The court says it will reassess the situation within two months, when experts have had time to report back.
Child protection officers went to court in an effort to get guardianship of the girl, who lives alone with her divorced father. They say the trip, which will take two years, is too risky. In addition, the long periods without human contact will be bad for her social development, experts say.
Education officials are also concerned that the girl will miss two years of school. She has pledged to continue her studies by email during the trip and to spend extra time in ports to avoid bad weather.
Born at sea
Laura Dekker was born in New Zealand while her parents were on a round-the-world sailing trip and said earlier this week she plans to return to that country. The girl also has Dutch nationality from her father and German nationality from her mother.
But child protection officials in New Zealand told Nos on Friday that the girl would face similar controls there.
Dekker spent the first four years of her life at sea. She started sailing solo when she was six and started dreaming at age 10 of a solo trip around the world, she told reporters earlier. The girl’s lawyer says she has ‘salt in her blood’.
Earlier this year she was picked up by social workers in Britain after sailing alone to the port of Lowestoft. They ordered her father to come and pick her up, saying she was too young to cross the channel alone.
Her mother is said by the Volkskrant to be against the voyage but has agreed to back her daughter because of the fear she may lose contact with her.
On Thursday, 17-year-old British youth Mike Perham became the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe after a nine-month trip. He was accompanied by his father who sailed on a boat behind him, but did not assist him.
More to follow
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