Laura Dekker completes epic journey around the world

POSTED: 01/23/12 8:09 PM

Guppy docks at Yacht Club under New-Zealand flag

Laura Dekker hugs her sister Kim, flanked by her mother Babs Müller and her father Dick Dekker.

St. Maarten– A large crowd welcomed teen-sailor Laura Dekker at the Simpson Bay Yacht Club on Saturday afternoon upon the completion of her solo-trip around the world. Dekker captained her Guppy, a 38-foot Jeanneau Ginfizz ketch, under New-Zealand flag. Two weeks ago she removed the Dutch flag as a protest against renewed interference by the Child Protection Agency. Her father Dick contracted local lawyer mr. Remco Stomp for legal assistance to be prepared for all eventualities.

All this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the sailing enthusiasts that gave the feisty teenager the welcome she deserved after her 27, 000 nautical miles trip. Dekker sailed on August 4, 2010 from Amsterdam to Gibraltar together with her father; at the time she was still 14, and Dutch law forbids sailors under 16 to captain a boat without adult supervision.

An armada of dinghies on the water and a large on-shore crowd on hundreds of people welcomed Dekker when she sailed into port at five minutes to three, right behind a Coast Guard super rhib.

Large yachts blew their horns to welcome the young sailor. She hugged her father Dick Dekker, her mother Babs Müller and her sister Kim after docking, and shed some tears of joy before turning her attention to photographers, camera crews and journalists.

History at work: Laura Dekker sails into port at five minutes to three on Saturday and is welcomed by a huge crowd.

Dekker’s bravery at sailing around the world alone was a key feature in a welcome speech by Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport who questioned when adults would stop imposing their fears on young people.

“Laura Dekker has conquered her own fears, if she had any, and dissolved ours, which we tried to impose on her in an attempt to dissuade her from embarking on a historic, record-breaking circumnavigation which basically started right here on St. Martin, and also ends here today, as a testament to the determination, iron-will, and sailing skills of this young lady,” Arrindell said.

Later she’d add, “You did not allow anyone to steal your dream. You fought legal battles, defied all the odds, braved some treacherous seas, to arrive here today, with your head high, your eyes beaming with joy and satisfaction, and everyone around you proud of your accomplishment.”


Dekker plans to move to New-Zealand, though she first wants to finish her Havo-studies. It remains unclear whether she will return to the Netherlands to do this or that she will continue studying via the Lelystad-based World School for distance learning.

The teenager has three nationalities: Dutch (because of her father), German (because of her mother) and New-Zealand (because she was born on September 1995 on a boat off the coast of that country). She is no longer registered as a citizen in the Netherlands.

The matter of Dekker’s education was another theme that Arrindell stressed.

“Laura, that you have no excuse for not finishing your studies, and I really look forward to the day of your graduation from school. As a matter of fact, the record you must achieve now is that of completing your studies. I am gladdened by the fact that you have already made that commitment to yourself,” Arrindell said, before welcoming Dekker home and thanking her for delivering the island’s first world record.

Dekker’s arrival was covered by media around the globe, giving St. Maarten some sorely needed positive exposure.

The Volkskrant described how much sailing determines her life: “In her room, a cabin in the wooden cutter her father built, are no posters of horses or ponies. It is about sailing, sailing and sailing. There are pictures of Laura in and on sailing boats; there are trophies she won in races, and a world map.”

Her grandmother Riet told the newspaper once: “At the end of primary school she got the advice to go to the Athenaeum. She told me: but grandma, I still have so much sailing to do; I really cannot do that on the side. So she went to the Havo. Sailing is something she had in her from very early on.”

Dekker’s favorite book is Solo by Tania Aebi, the American teenager who made a similar trip ten years before Dekker was even born.

“It became her source of inspiration. She also wanted freedom, being on the road with anybody telling you anything.”
The Volkskrant contacted Aebi, who is now 45.

“I have followed her trip from the beginning. It is fantastic what she has done. An incredible performance. The ocean is the ocean. You have to do everything yourself to survive. She is a pretty determined person.”

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