Laura Dekker: Ten years later

Published on December 8th, 2022

At 16 years old, Laura Dekker defied the odds to finish her solo circumnavigation around the world. Ten years on, she reflects on her momentous achievement.

How far would you go to achieve your sailing dream? Dutch sailor Laura Dekker went further than most to become the youngest person to solo circumnavigate the world.

She faced the scrutiny of a critical media, court battles with the Dutch state, psychological testing, the confiscation of her boat and the threat of being removed from her parents.

‘I clung onto hope and just kept going, hoping something would change,’ she recalled. ‘I am quite a positive thinking person so I like to keep going, but I definitely had low moments.’

Laura Dekker and her parents were surprised by the Dutch state’s fierce opposition to her plans.

Born in Whangarei, New Zealand while her parents were sailing around the globe, Dekker grew up on the water and on boats. Sailing was just a normal part of her life.

“To us, it wasn’t as crazy as it seemed to so many other people, especially for me, because sailing was literally all I knew. I really couldn’t understand what the fuss was about, which is part of the reason why I really wanted to keep fighting. It seemed really unfair that three judges, who had no idea about boats or sailing, needed to decide whether I was capable of doing such a thing or not,” explained Dekker, who initially started honing her sailing skills in an Optimist and Mirror before graduating to a Hurley 700.

At 10, she made her first long-distance solo trip, from Ijsselmeer to the Wadden Islands.

Her appetite for singlehanded sailing well and truly whetted, she began preparing for a circumnavigation, sailing her Hurley 700 solo from the Netherlands to the UK. She was 13.

The police were alerted after a friend’s mother reported her to the authorities, and her father, Dick, had to fly to England and sail with her back home. This was just the start of unwanted state intervention in her plans, and she was placed under a guardianship order.

She upgraded her boat to a Hurley 800, but this was confiscated by the courts. – Full report

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