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article imageTeenage Solo Sailor Under Care of Dutch Authorities

By Chris Dade     Aug 28, 2009 in Sports
A court in the Netherlands has ordered that a 13-year-old girl planning to sail solo around the world be placed in state care whilst her capacity to make the two-year journey is assessed by a child psychologist.
Earlier this week 17-year-old Michael Perham from Britain entered the record books as the youngest person to sail solo around the world after he completed a nine-month journey in his 50 ft. racing yacht totallymoney.com. His circumnavigation of the world meant that he replaced Zac Sutherland in the record books after Mr Sutherland, an American, completed his own solo voyage in 13 months.
Mr Sutherland, himself only 17 but still nearly four months older than Mr Perham, returned from sea in the middle of July.
But the ruling today of a court in Utrecht, Netherlands, has thrown in to doubt the plans of 13-year-old Laura Dekker to beat the record now held by Michael Perham by sailing around the world in a 26 ft. boat that has been named Guppy.
The decision to place Ms Dekker under the care of the Dutch Council for Child Protection, she will remain living with her father, will as Google reports be effective until October 26 when the care order may or may not be extended. It is conceivable that come October 26 Ms Dekker, by then 14, will effectively receive the green light to start preparing for her record-breaking attempt.
Richard Dekker, the girl's father, has threatened to take his daughter to New Zealand if the authorities in the Netherlands continue to block their plans. Although authorities there are likely to adopt a similar stance. British authorities also acted when Ms Dekker sailed to England on her own earlier in the year. Regardless of their intervention she still sailed home alone. The 13-year-old girl holds New Zealand citizenship having been born there aboard a boat on which her Dutch father and German mother, now separated, were themselves sailing around the world.
Her mother reportedly does not object to her daughter undertaking what could be a very perilous journey. According to the BBC Mr Perham's voyage saw him encounter 50 ft. waves, gale force winds and technical difficulties. Nevertheless one of the main concerns for Ms Dekker seems to be that of the isolation she would face, a situation a 13-year-old would not necessarily be equipped to deal with.
Ms Dekker was not in court to hear the ruling, unsurprisingly perhaps she was out sailing. The lawyer representing her father, who did attend court, was Peter De Lange. Whilst asserting that his client's daughter would receive more of an education on a two-year trip around the world than at high school, when speaking to the London Times he declared himself happy in general with the decision the judges reached, saying:I was expecting this. It was a very difficult decision for the court. If they had said yes straight away every young person could look at it and say 'I don't want to go to school, I will copy Laura and go sailing for two years. On the other hand, if they had said no straight away what would that mean for sports in Holland? This is a good compromise; they are saying we have to look at every individual case
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