Three years earlier, a Dutch court had prohibited the then-thirteen-year-old from beginning her around-the-world sailing venture. Dekker’s parents supported the voyage but child protection authorities called the plan “irresponsible” and the court put the girl under state care for two months, preventing her parents from making decisions for her. A Dutch newspaper editorial stated that Dekker “simply does not have the experience to anticipate the problems and possible crises that await her.”
One year later a court ruled that Dekker’s preparations for the trip were satisfactory, and she departed from the harbor of Gibraltar one month before her fifteenth birthday. In 2010, Australian Jessica Watson had completed a nonstop, unassisted solo circumnavigation just days before her seventeenth birthday, but two months before Laura’s launch, sixteen-year-old American Abby Sunderland had to be rescued after running into trouble on a similar around-the-world sailing mission.
Dekker spent 518 days at sea and traveled more than 27,000 nautical miles in her yacht, the Guppy. Her accomplishment is not included in the Guinness Book of Records because the book’s editors stopped recording young-sailor feats in an attempt to discourage dangerous ventures.
Also on this date …
JAN. 21, 2013: SAM BERN, sixteen (center), stars in the HBO broadcast Life According to Sam. He suffers from progeria, a rare genetic condition that drastically accelerates the aging process. The disease takes his life one year later.