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16-year-old girl finishes round-the-world boat trip - alone

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A 16-year-old girl from Holland has completed her year-long solo journey around the world in a sailboat. Laura Dekker officially ended her voyage at the Caribbean island of St Maarten onboard her vessel called the "Guppy."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dozens cheered Dekker as she pumped her fist into the air in celebration as she sailed past a drawbridge raised for her arrival at the island's port this weekend.

Dekker is the youngest sailor to complete a round-the-world voyage. She had originally set off from the same harbor on January 20, 2011.

There's a catch to Dekker's accomplishment. Guinness World Records, the organization that verifies and compiles data on world record attempts, says it will not verify this particular record as it does not wish to encourage similar, dangerous attempts.

Dutch officials attempted to block her trip, arguing that she was too young to risk her life. School authorities complained that she should have been in a classroom -- and not braving the elements.

Dekker won a ten-month long court case against child welfare authorities in August 2010, who contended that she was too young for her safety to be guaranteed.

The last leg of the journey took Dekker through high seas and heavy winds from Cape Town, South Africa.

Dekker hugged her family and wept before addressing the crowd.

Dekker was born aboard a boat and first sailed solo at age six. At 10, she said, she began dreaming abut circling the globe.

"Her story is just amazing," one of Dekker's fans, a 10-year-old boy from Connecticut says. "I can't imagine someone her age going out on sea all by herself."

Dekker, who turns 17 this September 20th, has beaten the current record for being the youngest sailor to make an unassisted world tour by about eight months. The current record holder is Australian Jessica Watson, who achieved it in May 2010, three days before she turned 17.

Unlike Watson, who sailed non-stop, Dekker sailed from port-to-port, never spending more than three weeks at sea in a single journey.

Gerard van Erp, Dekker's manager, has stressed that what matters to the teenager is not the record. "What is important is for her dream to become reality," he said.

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