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Dutch sailor girl put under care

28 August 09 21:16 GMT

A Dutch court has put a 13-year-old girl under state care for two months, stalling her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

The decision by three Utrecht judges means Laura Dekker's parents, who support her plans, temporarily lose the right to make decisions about her.

A child psychologist will now assess her capacity to undertake the voyage.

Miss Dekker says she is happy with the ruling, but she will try to convince the authorities to let her set sail.

"I haven't had the same upbringing as so many other children," she told the Dutch television programme, NOS Jeugdjournaal, in her only comments after the ruling.

"Sailing has always played an important role in my upbringing and that's why I want to do this now," she added.

Back to school

The seasoned sailor, who lives with her father Dick Dekker, said she would return to classes when school reopens on Monday after the summer break.

"My classmates may be surprised to see me back at school, but I'm confident that I will set sail one day. I know I can do it," she told the Jeugdjournaal programme.

Mr Dekker had earlier had a request for her to miss two years of school turned down.

Miss Dekker had planned to spend about two years aboard her 26ft (8m) boat, Guppy, to break the record set this week by a 17-year-old UK boy.

Mike Perham tackled 50ft waves, gale force winds and technical problems during the 28,000 mile (45,000km) circumnavigation, which took him nine months.

Addressing concerns that she would be alone for long periods on her round-the-world trip, she told Jeugdjournaal: "I will always be surrounded by other people who are on a journey like mine. I really think I will meet these people and make friends easily."

'Live freely'

The Dutch Child Protection Agency had requested Miss Dekker be made a ward of court because, it said, it was "irresponsible for such a young girl to make a two-year solo trip around the world".

The judges agreed, ruling Miss Dekker would face mental and physical risks if she were allowed to go ahead with her planned record attempt.

Miss Dekker was put under the guardianship of the Utrecht Youth Care agency and the case will be reviewed after two months.

Peter de Lange, the Dekkers' lawyer, described the case as "exceptional".

"The crucial question is whether it is wrong for parents to allow their child to indulge in her passion," he told Radio Netherlands.

Caroline Vink, a senior adviser on youth protection in the Netherlands, said the case needed to be "looked into".

"We're talking about a 13-year-old," she told the BBC. "You can also question whether she's able to take this decision for herself, and whether the parents are making the decision in the best interests of Laura."

Miss Dekker was reportedly born on a yacht off the coast of New Zealand during a seven-year world trip.

She 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 had earlier told Dutch television.

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

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