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Dutch bid to thwart young sailor

Laura Dekker (c) and her father (l) and laywer
Sailor Laura Dekker says she wants to 'live freely'

Social workers in the Netherlands have taken legal action to try to stop a 13-year-old girl from sailing around the world on her own.

They want Laura Dekker to be made a ward of court, so that her parents, who support her plans, temporarily lose the right to make decisions about her.

Laura's father, Dick Dekker, has had a request for her to miss two years of school turned down.

Laura had a yacht by the age of six and began sailing solo when she was 10.

"Since I was 10 years old, I've known that I would like to sail around the world," she told Dutch television.

"I want simply to learn about the world and to live freely."

'More vulnerable'?

The current record is held by American Zac Sunderland, who completed the 45,000km (28,000-mile) voyage at the age of 17, after 13 months at sea.

Miss Dekker, who was reportedly born on a yacht off the coast of New Zealand during a seven-year world trip, plans to break that record.

I want to do it while I'm still young, so I can break the record
Laura Dekker

"My parents always knew it was a dream of mine to do this," she is reported to have told a children's TV programme.

"And I want to do it while I'm still young, so I can break the record."

The trip, on an 8.3m-long yacht called Guppy, would be paid for by sponsorship, AFP reports.

Local media report that the girl spent seven weeks sailing alone at the age of 11.

But Junior Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt-Vliegenthart recently told parliament: "A solo voyage around the world would not be in the best interests of the child."

Experienced sailors have also highlighted the risks Miss Dekker might face if she attempts to sail single-handedly around the globe.

"When she's got a broken mast on heavy seas, can a girl make herself safe again? I can't see it happening," Bernt Folmer, director of the Enkhuizen School of Seamanship, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

"You're much more vulnerable on your own than you are with other people," he added.

The court is due to make a ruling this week.



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