Laura Dekker, at the Hiswa Boat Fair, Amsterdam
20 September 1995 |
Whangarei, New Zealand
|Known for||The youngest person to sail solo around the world, with stops|
Laura Dekker (born 20 September 1995) is a Dutch sailor. In 2009, she announced her plan to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. A Dutch court stepped in, due to the objections of the local authorities, and prevented Dekker from departing while under shared custody of both her parents. In July 2010, a Dutch family court ended this custody arrangement, and the record breaking attempt finally began on 21 August 2010. Dekker successfully completed the solo circumnavigation in an 11.5-metre (38 ft) two-masted ketch, arriving in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, on 21 January 2012.
Dekker was born in the city of Whangarei, New Zealand during a seven-year trip by her parents. Her father, Dick Dekker, is Dutch and her mother, Babs Müller, is German. Dekker has Dutch, German, and New Zealand citizenship. Her parents divorced in 2002. She lived with her father after the separation of her parents, and her younger sister Kim went to live with her mother.
Dekker spent the first two years of her life at sea. At six, Dekker owned her first boat, an Optimist, and learned to sail it herself. The next boat she received at the age of ten was a Hurley 700. She named it Guppy and used it for solo-sailing during her multiweek-long summer vacations; her trips included the Wadden Sea and the North Sea. In May 2009, Dekker made a solo-crossing from Maurik, Netherlands to Lowestoft, England where local authorities requested her father to come and accompany her on her return voyage. Her father, who didn't even know that she had gone, responded that if she could sail there by herself, she will also be able to sail back by herself.
In August 2009, Dekker announced her plan for a two-year solo sailing voyage around the globe in the Dutch national newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad. Her father was in support of her plans. Dekker planned to sail a seagoing 38 ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch, also named Guppy. The boat was equipped for long-distance sailing and adapted for solo-circumnavigation. The planned route started from Portugal westwards, to cruise the Caribbean and then to go through Panama and past Indonesia. She then planned either to go past Somalia to the Mediterranean, or around Africa, should piracy become a serious concern. Her plan was to make around 26 stops.
The original plan called for Dekker to be met at 14 locations by a support team, which also would help her along difficult spots such as the Panama Canal. In reality, for cost reasons, people from home (mostly family members) met her only five times, although she was given some assistance by other leisure sailors she met, for example through the Panama Canal. The plan said she would not be sailing for more than three weeks between stops. After Australia she however decided to skip some stops so she in reality did two 6–7 weeks long legs.
An Iridium tracking system onboard allowed a team in the Netherlands to monitor her course closely. She planned to avoid the stormy roaring forties (although the South Africa route gave her at least one storm) and the hurricane season (which she spent in the Canary Islands) during which she flew home to study (done once but not during the hurricane season).
Her education was conducted through the Wereldschool (Worldschool), an educational institution that provided her with material for self-learning.
From the beginning of her solo circumnavigation in late August 2010, Laura wrote a weekly column for the Algemeen Dagblad of Rotterdam. English and German translations of her columns are available.
The local authorities at Wijk bij Duurstede, her place of residence, objected and the Child Welfare Office became involved. A family court judgment was obtained that placed Dekker in shared parental custody with the Council for Child Care who stopped her departure. The shared custody was to last until July 2010, but a successful application by the child protection agency saw that extended until at least August of that year.
Dekker's plan and the intervention by the government received extensive international attention. Discussed was, aside from the personal matters, the issue to what degree government has a right to intervene when minors engage in risky behaviour that is parentally supported.
According to the Dutch inland shipping regulations, it is prohibited for a captain younger than sixteen years to sail a boat longer than seven meters in Dutch waters; thus Dekker would not be allowed to use the boat for any solo excursions within the Netherlands until 2012. She still did so, with the effect that the police required her father to come and sail the boat home together with her. The circumnavigation, however, would not start in the Netherlands, thus Dutch naval regulations do not apply to her voyage.
On 18 December 2009 a member of Dekker's family reported her missing to the police. A farewell letter was left for her father, although her boat remained in the port of Maurik. On 20 December, Dekker was found safely on Sint Maarten. Two days later she returned to Amsterdam where she was questioned by the police.
On 26 December 2009 it was reported that another court in the Netherlands overruled the objections of the social workers and permitted her to begin her circumnavigation in September of the following year when she turned 15.
On 27 July 2010 the Dutch court ended supervision of Dekker, and decided it was "up to the girl's parents to decide whether she can make the trip." Dekker reported that she would depart "within two weeks".
Dekker later commented about the authorities in an interview, saying "They thought it was dangerous. Well, everywhere is dangerous. They don't sail and they don't know what boats are, and they are scared of them."
While in Australia, Dekker gave an interview in which she admitted that she was not doing much schoolwork, since she was busy with sailing, maintenance, customs procedures and other tasks related to her journey. This led to press and other commentators suggesting that she had quit school and thrown the school books overboard. She tried to correct this by saying that she had not stopped studying totally and would continue her academic studies after returning to the Netherlands.
Preceding Dekker's journey, the sailing press appeared rather sceptical, but became more positive during the journey, and acclaimed her after the Indian Ocean crossing and the Cape of Good Hope passage.  General media in countries she visited have often also been impressed, at least on later stages. General media in the Netherlands mostly avoided writing about her during the journey, since the journey went mostly as planned. An exception was the newspaper Algemeen Dagblad which had a weekly column about her and displayed a standing link on the front web page to a collection of articles about the teenage sailor. However, on 4 January 2012, Dutch and German press started to write much more about her, both about the fact that she soon was expected to finish the circumnavigation, and about the fact that she did not want to return to the Netherlands, but to settle in New Zealand. After the arrival on 21 January 2012 there were articles in newspapers all over the world.
Early in the project, Dekker planned to sail a Hurley 800 she named Guppy, that had been lent to her by a sponsor. This Guppy had a length of 8.30 metres (27 ft) and a beam (width) of 2.75 metres (9 ft). In February 2010 she and her father acquired the boat, that was used for the circumnavigation. It needed a thorough renovation.
Dekker sailed from Den Osse, Netherlands, on 4 August 2010, headed for Portugal. This segment did not constitute part of the solo circumnavigation, as her father was on board to coach her and test the new boat. The published plan was that the solo voyage would commence from Lisbon. Instead, Dekker and her father sailed to Portimão, arriving on 15 August. She sailed with others from Portimão to Gibraltar on 18–20 August, because according to Portuguese law, she was too young to be formally qualified to captain her ship.
2010–2012 Solo circumnavigation progress:
- Departed Gibraltar on 21 August 2010.
- Arrived at Lanzarote on 25 August.
- Stayed in the Canary Islands for several weeks because of the Atlantic hurricane season.
- Departed Gran Canaria on 10 November for Cape Verde.
- Commenced Atlantic crossing from Cape Verde to Sint Maarten—a distance of 2,200 nautical miles (4,100 km; 2,500 mi)—on 2 December; finished when she reached Simpson Bay Lagoon on 19 December; having encountered calm weather on this leg of her journey, used the engine for two days in order to arrive on time.
- Served as crew member for ten days on the tall ship Stad Amsterdam, departing from St. Maarten on 5 January 2011.
- Departed Sint Maarten on 20 January; visited the islands of Îles des Saintes, Dominica, Bonaire and San Blas Islands, all located in the Caribbean.
- Flew home on 27 February; stayed to 10 March to speak at a boat show and other places, now a figure of considerable media attention in the Netherlands.
- Completed the passage of the Panama Canal on 11 April 2011; visited Pearl Islands thereafter.
- Crossed the Equator on the evening of 25 April; reached the Galápagos Islands the following day.
- Departed the Galápagos Islands on 7 May and arrived at Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands on 25 May, having sailed about 2,960 nautical miles (5,480 km; 3,410 mi) in 18 days, the longest leg so far; encountered open sea only, with no islands near the route.
- Sailed from Marquesas Islands to Tahiti between 1 and 8 June, a journey of 770 nautical miles (1430 km); demanding leg of the journey with shifting winds, many reefs, ships, and little sleep.
- Visited Moorea and Bora-Bora, and then sailed the 1400 nm (2530 km) journey to Vava'u, Tonga in 12 days, where she arrived 8 July.
- Arrived 17 July 2011 at Suva, Fiji, having sailed for four days, and on 30 July at Port Vila, Vanuatu after having sailed for three days.
- Sailed from Vanuatu on 8 August, heading for Darwin, Australia; arrived in Darwin on 25 August after one of the toughest legs of her journey, which included passage through Torres Strait, filled with reefs, islands and large ships; father visited her in Darwin, their first meeting since she had visited the Netherlands in March 2011; together, undertook a major overhaul of the boat; celebrated Dekker's 16th birthday.
- Departed Darwin on 25 September, heading west; published information about this leg of her journey in her blog following about two weeks delay, because of security concerns regarding Indian Ocean pirates.
- Sailed to Durban, South Africa, arriving 12 November, after 47 days at sea non-stop; reported wind varying from dead calm to hard wind that often shifted direction; sometimes encountered rough waves (distance Darwin–Durban is 5,540 nautical miles (10,260 km; 6,380 mi)).
- Arrived at Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on 18 November.
- Passed Cape Agulhas, South Africa, on 26 November, southernmost point on the African continent, and southernmost point of her journey; sailed thereafter a northerly course for the first time on her journey from the Netherlands.
- Passed the Cape of Good Hope on 27 November in rough weather; reached Cape Town the same day; father and journalists and the boats of the Volvo Ocean Race met her there.
- Sailed from Cape Town on 12 December, heading northwest.
- Reached the longitude of her unofficial starting point in the Netherlands on 20 December; had already crossed all longitudes in the course of her circumnavigation; faced another 4800 nautical miles for her official completion.
- Arrived in Simpson Bay on Sint Maarten on 21 January 2012 at approximately 3 pm local time after a non-stop journey of 5,600 nautical miles (10,400 km; 6,400 mi) from Cape Town, thus completing her full circumnavigation of the world, at the age of 16 years, 123 days.
Maidentrip (2013), mostly shot by Dekker and directed by Jillian Schlesinger, is an 82-minute documentary about this trip.
- 3–6 February 2012 Laura and her father sailed with Guppy from Sint Maarten to Bonaire. She spent several weeks there.
- In March she visited the Netherlands (flying there). She attended the TV talk shows Pauw & Witteman and Gottschalk Live and visited the HISWA boat show.
- On 1 April she flew back to Bonaire where her boat was. There she started to prepare for sailing to New Zealand.
- From 14 to 22 April she sailed from Bonaire to Colón, Panama, with a stop at the San Blas Islands.
- After passing the Panama Canal on 9 May, Laura sailed from Panama City to the Galápagos Islands. Then sailed 2,960 nautical miles (5,480 km; 3,410 mi) to Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, which this time took 25 days, arriving on 26 June. After Hiva Oa, she also visited Tahuatu, Rangiroa, Tahiti and Moorea.
- Left Tahiti on 25 August, heading for Whangarei, New Zealand, a 2,200 nautical miles (4,100 km; 2,500 mi) journey.
- Arrived to Whangarei on 2 September 2012.
- During the rest of 2012 she visited New York and Tokyo, where she received an award. She also sailed on a race boat (The Coastal Classic and transport sail Hobart-Auckland).
- During the summer of 2013, she took part in the recording (in Morocco) of the reality TV show Atlas, which was broadcast in the Netherlands in August–October 2013.
- In September 2013 she attended a few TV talk shows in Netherlands and Germany, in connection with the release of her book in German (released earlier that year in Dutch).
- On 26 September and 6 October 2013 she gave German language presentations in Hamburg and Windeck.
- In February 2014 Laura and her boyfriend made a boat trip to Norfolk Island and back, a 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km; 1,300 mi) journey.
- In summer 2014 she did a long car trip in the USA and Canada with her friend.
- In late summer 2014 she gave some presentations in Europe, e.g. Bilbao, Copenhagen, and went back to New Zealand in October.
- In 2015 she took part in the Dutch reality show Expeditie Poolcirkel, recorded autumn 2014 in north Scandinavia, which she won.
- In early 2015 she acquired the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence.
Dekker lives on her boat in Whangarei's Quayside Town Basin.
- The Christian Science Monitor. "Laura Dekker close to completion of solo round-the-world sail". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- [dead link](registration required). The Globe & Mail (AP), 21 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
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- "Solozeiler Laura (13): 'Alles is rond'". Het Parool (in Dutch). 24 August 2009.
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- Manson, Bess (25 October 2014). "A Girl, A Boat, A Dream". Your Weekend (supplement to The Press). pp. 10–14.
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- "The Jeanneau Gin Fizz 37 Sailboat". Bluewaterboats.org. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
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- [dead link]
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- Laura Dekker wint Expeditie Poolcirkel 2015 (in Dutch)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Laura Dekker.|
- Official website of Laura Dekker
- Laura Dekker position
- Radio interview, 11 minutes, in January 2011
- Laura Dekker's boat, the Jeanneau Gin Fizz 37
- Books by Laura Dekker: Een meisje, een droom (in Dutch) ISBN 905961089X, and Ein Mädchen, ein Traum (in German)