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Laura Dekker's mom says daughter, 13, is too young to sail around the world

September 8, 2009 | 11:00 am

Dick Dekker (left), Laura Dekker and her lawyer Peter de Lange during a recent news conference in the courtroom in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Laura Dekker "can sail like the devil," her mom says. But the 13-year-old "is not yet grown up" enough to travel around the world by herself in a 26-foot sailboat.

Babs Muller spoke out for the first time late last week about her daughter's controversial plan to solo-circumnavigate the planet. The quote is attributed to the the Dutch-language Volkskrant daily.

Laura, as many are now aware, was prevented from leaving from The Netherlands on Sept. 1, as she had planned, by a judge who placed her under custody of child-care authorities for two months and appointed a psychologist to determine her ability to cope with the demands of the voyage and lengthy isolation.

Laura's parents are divorced. She lives with her father, who supports the voyage. Muller had implied she supported it, too, but now concedes she was only supporting the trip because Laura had threatened to stop seeing her if she tried to stop her.

"It breaks my heart that I may lose contact with her," Muller told the newspaper. "I have never in my life had to make such a difficult decision. But I would rather have a living daughter whom I do not see than a dead daughter."

This is a new twist, and Muller's opinion probably will weigh heavily on the judge when he decides whether to allow Dekker to embark on a voyage that could last as long as three years.

Laura's boat is appropriately named Guppy. She has extensive sailing experience for someone so young and claims to have dreamed of sailing around the world since she was 6.

If she somehow is able to go, she will aspire to become the youngest person to have sailed around the world alone. England's Mike Perham, 17, holds that record. He completed his nine-month odyssey in late August, beating a record held only briefly by Thousand Oaks sailor Zac Sunderland, also 17, who sailed around the world in 13 months.

Zac's younger sister Abby Sunderland, who turns 16 in October, is hoping to embark on a nonstop global journey in November. Australia's Jessica Watson, 16, this week began what she hopes will be a nonstop around-the-world voyage.

Abby Sunderland on Monday shared her thoughts on the Dekker saga: "Age doesn’t matter. She and her dad think she’s ready to go and they are the only two people that should be able to make the decision of whether or not she does. I don't know her, but, she has proved that she is a very capable sailor and I hope that she is able to go."

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Dick Dekker (left), Laura Dekker and her lawyer Peter de Lange during a recent news conference in the courtroom in Utrecht, Netherlands. Credit: Associated Press

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