Laura Dekker has arrived in St. Maarten, having sailed her 38 ft Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch, Guppy, successfully around the world alone. Her voyage began when she quietly slipped out of Gibraltar on August 21, 2010. At only 16 years and four months old, Laura is the youngest solo circumnavigator in history. The yacht club in Simpson Bay where she has arrived has been sealed off to anyone other than Laura’s family. The media is being kept at bay to give Laura time to rest before facing the media circus. A small floatilla met the young sailor, including one boat with her parent and grandparents aboard.
But who is Laura Dekker? Born on a sailboat in New Zealand she has had a most unusual life that has included significant family turmoil, in addition to her battle with Dutch courts to allow her to sail around the world as a minor. An article in the Dutch News.nl describes her as stubborn, self absorbed and a devil of a sailor.
Laura’s parents divorced when she was six and she went to live with her father. Her sister moved in with her mother. Not long after her father had a burn out and Laura had to help him around the house. For years things were difficult. When the council threatened to tow away their boat she successfully appealed to the mayor.
The psychologist called in to evaluate her on the order of the judge paints a picture of a girl who has had a lot to cope with. She describes her as ‘disciplined, intelligent and determined but wary of emotions like fear or sadness. She is very rational. Friendships have a functional character and do not seem to be ‘based on reciprocity’.
Laura, as she has written in her blog, hates anything to do with the authorities which claim to act in her best interest. They seem to have a point: Laura self harmed when her battle with the authorities was at its fiercest.
But others don’t understand why the authorities had to get involved at all. A yachtclub owner she stayed with in the island of Bonaire says: ‘She had built a wall around her but she could be social at the same time. People said her behaviour was autistic but I didn’t think so at all, She was just fed up with the authorities interfering and it made her shy.’
Peter de Lange says Laura doesn’t see herself as special in any way. ‘She would prefer to be completely left alone when she comes to St Maarten, no journalists, no fuss. She doesn’t care that American television stations are clamouring for interviews. She’s become a global brand but she’s just not interested.’