14-Year-Old Begins Solo Circumnavigation

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Courtesy of Kivanc Nis on Flickr.

Laura Dekker, a 14-year-old Dutch girl, set sail from Den Osse in the Netherlands on the first leg of a global circumnavigation, the Associated Press reports. Dekker plans to sail her red, 38-foot twin-masted ketch, Guppy, to Portugal with her father and then continue alone. If she manages to circle the globe, she will be the youngest to ever have done so.

Although Dekker's departure on Wednesday was met with enthusiasm from a crowd of about 100, her plan has come under broad scrutiny. Just last week a court released her from the guardianship of Dutch child protection agencies, which denied Dekker an attempt last year, citing the threats that a solo journey around the world might pose for the physical and mental health of the then 13-year-old. She has since undertaken first aid training, sleep deprivation conditioning, and a trial solo sail on the North Sea and has been ruled fit to sail alone.

Despite the legal sanction, Dekker's planned circumnavigation remains controversial and the dangers evident. In June, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland, also attempting a circumnavigation, had to be rescued in the Indian Ocean after her mast was snapped by a massive wave. And piracy is common in several areas through which Dekker will pass. In an attempt to discourage intrepid teens like Dekker and Sunderland, the Guinness' World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council have discontinued recognition of superlatively young sailors.

--Riley Blanton

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