This week, Dutch sailor Laura Dekker sailed into port on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten in the Lesser Antilles and became the youngest person ever to solo circumnavigate the globe. She had been at sea on and off for a little more than a year.
Dekker first began sailing alone at the age of six and had decided by eight that she one day wanted to sail around the world. She didn’t wait long make it a reality; if she had had it her way, she would have finished the journey long ago. Dekker had wanted to set the record when she was just 14, but was blocked by the Dutch courts, which put her in the care of welfare officers to prevent her from setting sail. In response, she ran away to Sint Maarten, where she would begin her challenge, and arrive victorious a year after that.
After a ten month battle with the courts, she did win the right to attempt the voyage, and began in August 2010 with her father on board the 38′ ketch Guppy. She left Sint Maarten alone in January 2011. She sailed through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, from there to South Africa and then back to the Caribbean. Unlike Jessica Watson, the Australian sailor who circumnavigated the world without stopping at the age of 16 in 2010, Dekker did make a series of port calls. However, Dekker is younger and beat Watson’s time by eight months.
Officially, however, no records were set by either Dekker or Watson. The Guinness World Book of Records does not acknowledge youngest person sailing accomplishments, for fear of encouraging dangerous expeditions. The World Sailing Speed Council will not recognize the feat, either. Nonetheless, Dekker’s journey is an impressive one. And now that she’s accomplished her life goal- before graduating from high school- she’ll have to come up with something even more daring.