Dutch teen sailor closing in on record: father

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Dutch teen sailor Laura Dekker, who fought a court battle for the right to go to sea, is closing in on the record of being the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the globe, her father said Thursday.

The 16-year-old is expected to arrive on the Caribbean island of Sint Martin late this month, meaning she would break the record "by more than half a year," Dick Dekker told AFP.

"She should finish her circumnavigation between January 20 and 25, probably on January 22 or 23," he said.

The teenager, sailing her 11.5 metre (38 foot) ketch "Guppy", has to complete her voyage before September 16 this year to break the unofficial record set by Australian Jessica Watson in May 2010.

The Australian teen finished her unassisted around-the-world sail three days before her 17th birthday. Dekker turns 17 on September 20.

The Dutch teen set a westerly course from Gibraltar on August 21, 2010, after winning a 10-month court battle with child welfare authorities.

A Dutch court had blocked plans for her to cast off a year earlier -- when he was just 14 -- and placed her in the care of child welfare officers on the grounds that she was too young to guarantee her safety at sea.

Concerns over piracy off Somalia forced her to reconsider heading north through the Suez Canal and instead chose a route that passed south of Africa.

"Her initial itinerary planned for her to arrive at the same place from where she departed, that's to say Gibraltar, but given that she finally decided to avoid the Suez Canal and passed south of South Africa, it was easier to finish in Sint Martin," Dekker said.

Unlike Watson, who circumnavigated non-stop, Dekker sailed from port-to-port and was never at sea for more than three weeks. She stopped in Sint Martin on December 18, 2010 to January 20 last year after the first leg of her voyage.

Dick Dekker said Thursday that after her trip ended, Laura planned to live in New Zealand, saying his daughter was "tired of the Netherlands, which has not ceased trying to put a spoke in her wheels."

© 2012 AFP

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