Sixteen-year-old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker has successfully completed her circumnavigation of the globe, making her the youngest person to do so. She arrived at her starting and ending point of St. Maarten on January 21 in her 38-foot Jeanneau Ginnfizz ketch, Guppy. In one year and one day, she’d covered a total of 27,000 nautical miles.
Dekker’s accomplishment marks the latest in a long line of attempts to claim the unofficial record of youngest solo circumnavigator. Dekker bested former record-holder Australian Jessica Watson by a few months. Other teens, such as American Abby Sunderland—who was rescued from the Indian Ocean in June, 2010 after her mast broke—have attempted the voyage to less success.
The recent trend in teen circumnavigation is attracting a great deal of media attention as well as scrutiny, as it is inherently dangerous. In fact, neither the Guinness World Records nor the World Sailing Speed Record Council recognize this record in order to discourage the dangerous voyage. Luckily, it was smooth sailing for Dekker—or as smooth as it gets on a journey of this nature.
Unlike other young globetrotters, Dekker made several stops along the way to anchor and sleep, make boat repairs and study. She even found time to surf, scuba dive and cliff dive.
After successfully sailing solo from the Netherlands to England and back at age 13, Dekker had hoped to attempt the globe in 2010 at age 14, but the Dutch authorities prohibited her from doing so and she postponed until her 15th birthday passed. Despite continuing concerns about her trip, she proved to be capable and mature enough to handle the challenges that arose on her yearlong voyage.