16-yr-old Dekker completes solo global sailing feat

People: Covered over 27,000 nautical miles; Dutch authorities tried to block trip,arguing dekker was too young

Written by Associated Press | St. Maarten,the Netherlands | Published: January 23, 2012 1:19:14 am

Laura Dekker set a steady foot aboard a dock in St. Maarten on Saturday,ending a yearlong voyage aboard a sailboat named “Guppy’’ that apparently made her the youngest person ever to sail alone around the globe,though her trip was interrupted at several points.

Dozens of people jumped and cheered as Dekker waved,wept and then walked across the dock accompanied by her mother,father,sister and grandparents,who had greeted her at sea earlier.

Dekker arrived in St. Maarten after struggling against high seas and heavy winds on a final,41-day leg from Cape Town,South Africa. “There were moments where I was like,‘What the hell am I doing out here?,’ but I never wanted to stop,’’ she told reporters. “It’s a dream,and I wanted to do it.’’

Dekker claims she is the youngest sailor to complete a round-the-world voyage,but Guinness World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council did not verify the claim,saying they no longer recognise records for youngest sailors to discourage dangerous attempts. Dutch authorities tried to block Dekker’s trip,arguing she was too young to risk her life.

Dekker said she was born to parents living on a boat near the coast of New Zealand and said she first sailed solo at 6 years old. She celebrated her 16th birthday during the current trip.

The teenager covered more than 27,000 nautical miles during her voyage. “Her story is just amazing,’’ said one of Dekker’s fans,10-year-old Jody Bell of Connecticut. “I can’t imagine someone her age going out on sea all by herself.’’

Unlike other young sailors who recently crossed the globe,Dekker repeatedly anchored at ports. Highlights of her trip include 47 days of sailing the Indian Ocean,which left her with unsteady legs when she docked in Durban,where she walked up and down the pier for practice.

Jessica Watson of Australia completed a 210-day solo voyage at age 16,a few months older than Dekker.

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