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Laura Dekker, 13, must wait before trying to sail around the world alone

August 29, 2009 |  8:40 am


As expected, a court in The Netherlands has decided that Laura Dekker, 13, is too young to try to sail around the world by herself. She can continue living with her father, who supported a controversial journey she had planned to begin next week, but under the scrutiny of a social services agency pending another hearing in two months.

Most people probably would agree that the court ruled properly. Dekker, despite her vast sailing background, has not fully developed physically or mentally; she cannot be suitably prepared for the types of situations she'd likely face.

Or so the thinking goes. Her planned voyage has been criticized by the media from the outset. Dekker was not present during the ruling but in a television interview she said, “All the media are horrible."

This isn't over yet. There is a mandated psychological review, and the next hearing. Dekker believes she can do this; it has been her dream since she was 6. She and her father have planned a two-year voyage that would not have her at sea for longer than three weeks at a time.

Dekker, in all likelihood, will ultimately embark on her quest to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, and with plenty of time to spare.

That record belongs to British sailor Mike Perham, 17, who this week replaced Thousand Oaks sailor Zac Sunderland, also 17, in the record book.

Australia's Jessica Watson, 16, plans to leave in a few weeks on what she hopes will be a nonstop journey; and Zac's sister Abby Sunderland, who will turn 16 in October, is planning to set sail in November for a nonstop odyssey.

Sunderland and Perham, who both left when they were 16, proved up to the task, but both sailors overcame several harrowing situations.

Can the girls do what they did, only faster? That will be for Mother Nature to decide.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Laura Dekker and her father (left) are seen at the court house in Utrecht, The Netherlands, before a second hearing determined she cannot tackle the world in a sailboat by herself--just yet. Credit: EPA/Valerie Kuypers