Solo Sailing Update: Laura Free To Sail!

Big news coming out of the Netherlands this morning with the news that 14-year old Laura Dekker will be allowed to attempt her solo sail around the world. A court lifted their imposed guardianship of Laura, who had been relegated to the care of Child Protective Services, freeing her up to leave as soon as she is able.

Laura has spent the majority of her life at sea, and was actually even born aboard a ship off the coast of New Zealand. She’s been sailing since she was six and had her on boat at the age of ten. Her 26-foot yacht, the Guppy, will become her home for the months ahead, as she attempts to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe. She’ll need to do that before her 17th birthday, to set the new record.  She has approximately two years to complete the voyage.

In the past, I’ve been fairly outspoken about someone as young as Laura sailing solo around the world, and I remain so, although recent information brought to my attention has cleared up a few things. According to Laura’s WikiPedia entry, she’ll avoid sailing around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, choosing to instead go through the Panama and Suez Canals. This will take away some of the danger of navigating through those perilous waters, but will instead replace that danger with higher ship traffic, increasing the chances of a collision. That said, if something should go wrong, she’s a lot closer to shore and rescue teams.

On top of the difference in her route, the Wiki entry also notes that she’ll have a support crew that will be with her for at least a portion of the voyage. As long as they don’t join her on her boat, or aid her in the journey, Laura will continue to have the “solo” status applied to the trip, but the support crew will be close at hand should she need their assistance. This is a very different approach than the one that Jessica Watson and Abby Sunderland used, in which they were truly alone at sea. Witness the efforts that it took to rescue Abby a month or so back when her mast broke in a storm on the Indian Ocean. It took several days just for a ship to arrive on the scene and retrieve her from her crippled vessel.

In light of this information, do you have a different opinion about Laura’s voyage? I do think that this sounds like a safe approach and knowing that she has another ship shadowing her, makes it a bit easier to understand how she can be allowed to go. I do wish her the best of luck, and I’m sure, after months of speculation and waiting, she is very relieved to be setting out soon. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she were to begin the voyage within the week.

Update:  ExWeb is reporting that Laura will begin her voyage within two weeks. Still won’t be surprised if it happens sooner.

Kraig Becker