Laura Dekker, at the Hiswa Boat Fair, Amsterdam in March 2011
|Known for||Youngest person to sail solo around the world|
(m. 2015; div. 2017)
Laura Dekker (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈlʌuraː ˈdɛkər]; born 20 September 1995) is a New Zealand-born Dutch sailor. In 2009, she announced her plan to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. A Dutch court stepped in, owing to the objections of the local authorities, and prevented Laura 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 a 12.4-metre (40 ft) two-masted ketch named Guppy, arriving in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, 518 days later at the age of 16.
Dekker was born in the city of Whangarei, New Zealand, during a seven-year sailing 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 2001. 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 five years of her life at sea and sailed often with her father after the family's return to the Netherlands. She has owned several boats, all named Guppy. The first was an Optimist dinghy she received for her sixth birthday, and which she promptly learned to sail solo, initially accompanied by her father on a windsurfer.
In the summer of 2006, after assisting her father in a 24-hour sailing race aboard a friend's Hurley 700, she received permission from the boat's owner to borrow it for personal use, in return for cleaning and maintenance. It was just at the 7 m (23 ft) limit below which Dutch law imposes on captains under the age of 16. Sailing it often, she christened this boat Guppy as well. In the summer of 2007, she took it on a more ambitious 6-week sailing tour of the Wadden Sea, accompanied by her dog Spot.
Over the following winter, Dekker searched for her own Hurley 700, and bought one with a loan from her father. This boat was also christened Guppy, and she spent her entire 2008 summer vacation aboard it, cruising around the Netherlands.
2009 trip to England
Over the following school year, she began preparing herself and Guppy for open-ocean sailing, with the goal of a round-the-world tour. In March, her father told her to gain some experience with the open sea by first sailing to England. This was intended to discourage her; the strong currents, rough weather, and heavy shipping make the English Channel notoriously difficult for sailboats.
Dekker spent the next eight weeks preparing Guppy for that trip. On the evening of Friday, 1 May, at the beginning of a 12-day school vacation, she sailed away from Maurik without specifying a destination to her father. She sailed to the coast and arrived in Maassluis Saturday afternoon. Early Sunday morning, she set out across the Channel, but weak winds delayed her arrival until Monday morning. Docking in Lowestoft, she e-mailed word of her success from a local library. Local authorities requested her father to come and accompany her on her return voyage. Her father responded that she could sail back on her own. Local authorities instead placed her in a children's home until he came to retrieve her. He returned her to her boat and then flew home. She left England on Monday, 11 May. With a strong wind this time, up to force 7, the return trip was much faster, reaching Rotterdam by the morning of the 12th and arriving home that evening.
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 (12 m) 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 some locations by family, which also would help her along difficult spots such as the Panama Canal. In actuality, for cost reasons, people from home (mostly family members) met her only two 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. However, after Australia, she decided to skip some stops, which meant completing two 6- to 7-week-long legs.
An Iridium Satellite LLC tracking system onboard allowed the family 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 big storm.
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.
According to 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.
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 (Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory subject to British law, though Dekker made her departure from Gibraltar in secret in order to avoid both the press and any maritime police).
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 (1,430 km; 890 mi); demanding leg of the journey with shifting winds, many reefs, ships, and little sleep.
- Visited Moorea and Bora Bora, and then sailed the 1,400 nautical miles (2,600 km; 1,600 mi) journey to Vavaʻu, 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 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) for her official completion.
- Arrived in Simpson Bay on Sint Maarten on 21 January 2012 at approximately 3 p.m. 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.
- The trip took 518 days or 74 weeks or 1 year, 5 months.
- In March 2013, Maidentrip, a film about Dekker's circumnavigation had its premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in the United States.
- During the summer of 2013, she took part in the recording (in Morocco) of the reality television show Atlas, which was broadcast in the Netherlands in August–October 2013.
- In autumn 2014, she took part in the Dutch reality show nl: Expeditie Poolcirkel in north Scandinavia (broadcast 2015), which she won.
- In November 2014, Dekker's book One Girl, One Dream was published.
- On 20 February 2015, she obtained a Yacht Master Ocean 200gt Certificate Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate (also becoming the youngest person to do so in the process).
- She has been working towards doing long-distance educational sailings with children. She founded Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation. She obtained a 21 meter long ship (named Guppy). In November 2020 Dekker and a young crew took away from Spain, heading for the Caribbean islands, and back.
A February 2018 interview with the American Sailing Association announced "Dekker has donated her beloved Guppy, the very boat she did the trip on, to LifeSail." LifeSail is a Los Angeles non-profit organisation that uses sailing as a vehicle to teach life lessons to children.
LifeSail released a public statement in March 2019 with a timeline of events that stated Ms. Dekker originally donated Guppy as a requirement to receive funds from a third party. Those funds would be used for her new boat, Guppy XL. Laura Dekker blames LifeSail and Matt Schulz, alleging they broke their contract by sailing the vessel with inexperienced crew and mooring in unsafe locations. She claimed compensation for the loss of Guppy, as the donation contract with LifeSail specified that in the case of a total loss all insurance compensation would go to her, less any value added by LifeSail.
- "Zeilmeisje Laura Dekker getrouwd" (in Dutch), De Telegraaf, 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- "Laura Dekker close to completion of solo round-the-world sail". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "youngest sailor to complete solo trip around the world". Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.(registration required). The Globe & Mail (AP), 21 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Dutch teen completes historic, controversial solo sail around the globe". CNN. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Solozeiler Laura (13): 'Alles is rond'". Het Parool (in Dutch). 24 August 2009. Archived from the original on 23 February 2016.
- "Gemeente wil Laura Dekker nog niet uitschrijven". Binnenlands Bestuur (in Dutch). 25 August 2009.
- "LauraDekker.nl de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld! – ◦ About Laura ◦". www.lauradekker.nl.
- "Mutter absolut gegen Weltumsegelung". Spiegel (in German). 5 September 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
- Manson, Bess (25 October 2014). "A Girl, A Boat, A Dream". Your Weekend (supplement to The Press). pp. 10–14.
- Dekker, Laura (29 May 2015). "Winter Jobs..."
The first couple of times that I sailed out in my Optimist, dad would sail along me on a windsurf-board. He would capsize the boat in moments when I would least expect it. I often landed under the sail, which was what he wanted, so that he could see how I would react. It was – I realize now – the best preparation that he could have given me for my trip and other adventures.
- Dekker, Laura (July 2009), Translated by Thomas Weber & 45N73W, "Not a Crazy Action", Zeilen (7): 32–35, retrieved 10 April 2015
- Kievit, Rob (29 August 2009). "Dreams scuppered for Dutch sailor girl". BBC News. Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
- Swift, Mary (22 July 2001). "Sailing Across The English Channel". Retrieved 2 July 2015.
Notorious as being one of the most heavily trafficked shipping lanes in the world, with a large tidal range and fast currents, you really do need to keep your wits about you.
- "Dutch teen who sought solo sailing trip disappears". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 20 December 2009. Archived from the original on 23 January 2012.
- "The Jeanneau Gin Fizz 37 Sailboat". Bluewaterboats.org. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Laura Dekker warned to steer clear of the Gulf of Aden". Rnw.nl. 9 February 2011. Archived from the original on 23 February 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "Op koers". lauradekker.nl. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "Laura, mag ik met je mee op wereldreis?". AD. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Zeilmeisje Laura Dekker". Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- "Weltumseglerin Laura Dekker verschwunden". Spiegel (in German). 20 December 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
- "Dutch court halts girl's solo sailing plans". CNN. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
- "Teen solo sailor Laura made a ward of court". Dutchnews.nl. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- "Dutch court delays schoolgirl's round-the-world bid". Google News. Agence France-Presse. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
- Adam, Karla (30 August 2009). "Dutch Delay 13-Year-Old's Dream of Sailing the World". The Washington Post.
- Whipple, Tom (29 August 2009). "Court bans teen sailor Laura Dekker from record-breaking voyage". The Times. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- "MainSail Social workers threaten to thwart teen sailor's record bid". CNN. 30 August 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- "Laura Dekker, 13, must wait before trying to sail around the world alone". Los Angeles Times. 29 August 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- "wetten.nl – Wet- en regelgeving – Binnenvaartpolitiereglement – BWBR0003628". Wetten.overheld.nl. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Zeilmeisje-Laura-Dekker-vermist". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
- "Update – BNO News reports that teen Dutch sailor Laura Dekker is found safe on Saint Martin". BNO News. 20 December 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
- "Solo sailor girl found on Caribbean island". Dutchnews.nl. 21 December 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Corder, Mike (22 December 2009). "Teenage Dutch sailor Laura Dekker sees life unravel after court blocks dream voyage". Associated Press.
- "14-year-old given permission to sail around world". NZ Herald. 26 December 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
- Stanglin, Douglas (27 July 2010). "Dutch court OKs bid by 14-year-old to sail solo around the world". Content.usatoday.com. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- "SpitsNieuws : Laura gaat rond de wereld zeilen". Spitsnieuws.nl. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- "15 Year Old Laura Dekker Crosses Atlantic". Allatsea.net. February 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "The boat is more important". Jeugdjournaal.nl. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "Laura Dekker gestopt met school (Laura Dekker dropped out of school)". Static.nos.nl. 19 September 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "Schulbücher über Bord (School books overboard)". Spiegel.de. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- ""De boot is even belangrijker" (The boat is more important)". Jeugdjournaal.nl. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "genomineerden Conny van Rietschoten Trofee". Vanrietschotentrofee.nl. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "Laura Dekker, 16-year-old super solo sailor, on her final leg (Sail World, 16 Dec 2011)". Sail-world.com. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- "Laura Dekker Sets Out on Last Leg of Circumnavigation". Blue Water Sailing. 21 December 2011. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- Dolley, Caryn (28 November 2011). "Courageous Laura braves Cape of Storms (Cape Times, 28 Nov 2011)". Sundaytribune.co.za. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- "Zeilmeisje Laura Dekker: Algemeen Dagblad – English". Zeilmeisje-lauradekker.blogspot.de. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "AD Laura's zeilreis". Ad.nl. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "News search on 4–5 Jan 2012". Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- "Dutch teen sailor nears end of round-the-world voyage". Dutchnews.nl. 4 January 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- "Sailing girl Laura Dekker does not want to live in the Netherlands anymore". Dutchdailynews.com. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- "News search on 21–25 Jan 2012". Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "LauraDekker.nl de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld! – ◦ About Guppy ◦". www.lauradekker.nl.
- Gourmelen, Jean-Luc (April 2012). Translated by Thomas Weber and 45N73W. "The Young girl and the old Gin Fizz". Voiles et Voiliers (494). Retrieved 10 April 2015. A detailed description of Guppy as fitted for the trip.
- Durham, Richard (22 March 2010). "Dutch girl, 14, planning world cruise | Sailing news". Yachting Monthly. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- "Youtube video, departure from Den Osse". Youtube.com. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Schabner, Dean (21 August 2010). "Laura Dekker, 14, Sets Off on Round-the-World Sail". ABC News. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- Fitzpatrick, Judy (19 December 2010). "Teenage sailor on solo voyage reaches St. Maarten". Washington Post. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- "LauraDekker.nl de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld! – ◦ News ◦". Lauradekker.nl. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "LauraDekker.nl de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld!". Lauradekker.nl. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld! – ◦ News ◦". Lauradekker.nl. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- "Courageous Laura, 16, braves Cape of Storms". Cape Times.
- "LauraDekker.nl de Jongste solozeiler ter wereld! – ◦ News ◦". Lauradekker.nl. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Laura Dekker, Teen Ends Globe-Circling Voyage In St. Maarten". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- Mark Olsen: SXSW 2013: 'Short Term 12' and 'The Short Game' Los Angeles Times, 16 March 2013
- Laura Dekker wint Expeditie Poolcirkel 2015 (in Dutch)
- "Laura Dekker 'One Girl, One Dream' Author Tour". Eventfinda.
- Photograph of Yachtmaster certificate, including date of issue 20/02/2015.
- About World Sailing Foundation
- Atlantic Roundtrip
- Reynolds, Pat. "Laura Dekker Interview, Part 1". www.asa.com. American Sailing Association. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 August 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Dekker, Laura. "Laura's blog 11-09-2018".
Picture's from three weeks ago.. by now she is fully submerged and confirmed a total loss :'(
- Dekker, Laura. "About Guppy XL". lauradekkerworldsailingfoundation.com.
- "A report of the stranding of Sailing Vessel Guppy early August 2018 on a reef in Manihiki Island, Cook Islands" (PDF). 25 March 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
- "Laura Dekker Married!". Jetsetting Magazine. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
- "A new chapter in my life :)". Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation. 30 March 2019.
- "A new chapter in my life :)". Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation. 30 March 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Laura Dekker.|
- Official website of Laura Dekker
- Radio interview, 11 minutes, in January 2011
- Laura Dekker's boat, the Jeanneau Gin Fizz 37
- The latest interview with Laura Dekker, SailingEurope, 2019
- Books by Laura Dekker: Een meisje, een droom (in Dutch) ISBN 90-5961-089-X, Ein Mädchen, ein Traum (in German) ISBN 3-7688-3546-4, One Girl, One Dream (in English) ISBN 1-77554-045-6.