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Court clears way for teenage Dutch girl's solo sail around world

A Dutch court has ruled that the state should not stop a 14-year-old girl from sailing around the world alone. With the backing of her parents, Laura Dekker is to be permitted to undertake her two-year voyage.

Laura Dekker

Dekker will hope for smoother sailing from now on

The 14-year-old sailing enthusiast Laura Dekker is now free to sail around the world alone after a Dutch court ended a period of state supervision.

"The court rejects the request for the extension of supervision," Judge Suzanne Kuypers told a district court in the southern Netherlands town of Middelburg. "The supervision of the child is lifted with immediate effect."

Judge Kuypers said the verdict "puts the responsibility for the child back where it belongs; with the parents. It is the responsibility of the parents to let the child go on the yacht trip or not."

Laura Dekker

Child protection officials said they feared for Dekker's emotional and social well-being

Dekker's father, who she lives with, is in favour of the voyage and her mother has dropped her earlier opposition.

Birthday deadline

The teenager must complete the two-year trip before her 17th birthday in September 2012 to set the new record.

"In two weeks' time at the latest I'm heading out to sea," she said after the court verdict was issued.

Dekker plans to set sail from Portugal, from where she aims to cross the Atlantic on the first leg of her trip.

An earlier voyage was halted when the child protection authorities imposed a supervision order over Dekker last year, citing fears about her social and emotional development during long periods at sea. She breached the order last December, running away to the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten, and was escorted home by police. The order was due to expire on August 1.

Child protection officials said they might appeal against the latest decision.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP/Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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