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    Dutch teenager to begin solo world voyage


    by ODN

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    A 14-year-old girl is preparing to set sail on a solo world voyage after winning a year-long battle with child welfare authorities.

    A Dutch court ended Laura Dekker's state supervision last week, saying she had met all conditions imposed by authorities and that the journey would pose no risk to her social and emotional development.

    The teenager departed from the southwestern Netherlands on her 11.5-metre sailing craft Guppy. She initially headed to Portugal with her father from where she will officially started her solo trip.

    "Since I was eight years old, I wanted to sail around the world and when I was ten I was really sure I wanted to sail off, but then my parents didn't approve of it," Laura said while on the pier next to her boat, shortly before departure.

    Laura is an experienced sailor who was born on her parents' boat in New Zealand but her ambition has raised concerns about increasingly younger sailors attempting such voyages.

    Last month, 16-year-old Abby Sunderland from California was rescued by a French fishing vessel 2,000 nautical miles off the Australian coast in the Indian Ocean during a round-the-world solo attempt after her mast snapped.

    But Laura's lawyer, Peter de Lange, said she had studied that incident closely and concluded Abby was in the "wrong boat, at the wrong place at the wrong time".

    Rather than racing against time, Laura would avoid the storm periods, he said. She will still need to return to Lisbon no later than Sept. 16, 2012, if she wishes to break the record.

    Australian teenager Jessica Watson, 16, returned to Sydney harbour in May to become the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.