Young crew ready to sail around the world

POSTED: 06/3/13 11:47 AM

Corina IV leaves St. Maarten this weekend

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Is there something with girls called Laura and their desire to sail around the world? On January 21 of last year 16-year-old Laura Dekker sailed with her boat Guppy into the Simpson Bay Lagoon, marking the end of her solo trip around the world. This upcoming weekend, another Laura will leave the same lagoon for a 2-year trip around the world, even though she is more versed in handling a video camera than the 52-foot Beneteau Oceanis yacht Corina IV that will carry her together with four friends away from the Friendly Island until June 2015.

It’s all the fault of Max Loubser of course. At 23 one of the youngest captains in the Caribbean he was faced with picking up the Corina IV that had been sitting idly in a shipping yard in Honduras for more than two years for its owner Allard Stamm. The initial plan was to bring the boat back to St. Maarten and put it up for sale. Then the idea of selling it in Australia came in the picture.

“And then,” Laura Bijnsdorp says, “one day Max is sitting in my room together with Maria and Kippy and he says: do you want to sail around the world with me?”

That was about four months ago and the rest is history. Before that moment, Loubser had entertained the idea to travel with his friends to Honduras to pick up the boat – an adventure of maybe three months. Then the idea for a longer trip started to take shape and Max convinced Stamm to sell his boat in Australia. From there on, Stamm offered the idea that Loubser should take the Corina IV for a trip around the world.

In the end, Kippy Gilders went with Loubser to Honduras to pick up the boat. It had landed there with a failed GPS-system and two years of neglect had worked its miracles: “It was covered with mould, but it was seaworthy,” Gilders says.”So a day after our arrival we put her in the water.”

That’s when the young sailors found out what the boat’s condition really was. “We went to Honduras on April 3 and we came back to St. Maarten by the end of the month,” she recalls. “The boat had a leak and was taking water badly. We encountered storms, our sails broke, but in the end we made it back and we have now managed to fix up the boat.”

Until next weekend, the Beneteau Oceanis 52 will be anchored at the St. Maarten Yacht Club. It has been fitted with new sails from sponsor St. Maarten sails and the crew has spent liberal amounts of Chlorox to deal with the mould and to bring the vessel back to its former glory. “We are waiting for the main sail and then we are ready to go,” Laura Bijnsdorp says, and the glint in her eyes says it all: the day of departure cannot arrive soon enough. The departure is set for this upcoming weekend.

The crew of five consists of Captain Max Loubser (23), Kippy Gilders (22), Maria Merckens (21), Laura Bijnsdorp (24) and Alex Nebe (29).

The five crew members have known each other for a long time, which probably made it easier to jump on the occasion when Loubser launched his idea for the trip around the world.

Maria Merckens, the youngest crew member, radiates a youthful restlessness, fueled by a near insatiable desire for travel. Her educational effort in amongst others journalism and social studies had to make way during the past years for travels in Africa, South America and to St. Maarten. “I am looking for rest,” she said. “I want to travel a lot but I also want to study.”

Kippy Gilders will get her share of non-sailing activities on board as she will be part of a study conducted by the British Plymouth University on marine phytoplankton. The website the sailors set up for their trip ( explains the study as follows: “Marine plankton accounts for approximately 50 percent of all photosynthesis on earth and through the plankton food web that they support, they both underpin the marine food chain and play a central role in the global carbon cycle strongly influencing the earth’s climate.

“A recent study of global phytoplankton abundance over the last century concluded that concentrations have declined due to rising sea surface temperatures as a consequence of current climate change.”

Gilders will measure sea water turbidity with a so-called Secchi disc and transmit the data she collects to the university.

While sailing around the world may sound like a lot of fun, the Corina-crew is also determined to deal with some more serious business. On their way west they will stop at Ile-a-Vache in Haiti. Stamm and Loubser visited the place two years ago and noted that local fishermen used plastic bags, broken sails and cloth to make sails for their boats. They also lacked snorkeling gear for their jobs. The Corina will deliver donated snorkeling gear and used sails to these fishermen.

The crew has also committed to at least one underwater or beach clean up a month during their trip. The Corina IV has Blue Flag certification and the crew has furthermore committed to honor that certification through environmentally aware behavior.

Boat-owner Allard Stamm has dedicated the trip to fighting the stigmas that hamper people suffering from mental illness, especially bipolar disorder.

The trip will most of all be the experience of a lifetime for the young crew. The Corina IV is a well-equipped boat with proper sleeping quarters and all the equipment needed for sailing the oceans of the world. But still, a boat is a confined space. How are five youngsters going to hold up?’

“At a certain point we will get very close, like a family,” Laura Bijnsdorp expects. “I am sure that we will have our fights. But whatever fight we’ll have, we will always stand up for each other, because we have to rely on each other. And besides, traveling makes you more confident in yourself. You get to know what you want.”

Apart from St. Maarten Sails, and of course Allard Stamm who made his boat available, the trip is sponsored by Budget Marine and to a lesser degree also by Divico cash and carry.

For information about the trip and to follow the adventures of the Corina-crew after its departure, go to or to the Facebook-page readysetsail.



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Comments (1)


  1. Allard Stamm says:

    Thank you Mr. Haar. This is an outstanding article !
    Allard Stamm