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“Nationals October 2019

Laura Dekker Sets Sail

| August 05, 2010, 12:14 PM | 2 Comments

After a year of court battles, 14-year old Dutch teenager Laura Dekker has set sail after being given approval by the Dutch government last week to begin her journey. When Ms. Dekker announced her plans last year, at age 13, the Dutch child protective services stepped in and placed her under the guardianship of social workers, declaring her unfit to sail.

The public hasn’t exactly been enthusiastic about the announcement. Gary Jobson, the president of US Sailing, the organization governing sailing in the United States, said this in an article published in Connecticut-based Soundings Magazine:

“I think sending a 14-year-old daughter – as a father of three daughters – is completely irresponsible,” … “She can’t possibly have the experience to do this. We’ve learned from Abby Sunderland that lots of things can happen.”

In my opinion, he’s exactly right. Abby Sunderland was a girl, barring all controversy, who had an extensive knowledge of sailing and boating. She made it more than halfway around the world when something that no one could have possibly predicted happened: the weather. She showed us that even someone with a huge amount of experience and skill can be brought down by unpredictable weather conditions. Anything can happen when you’re at the mercy of the ocean.

Laura was born off the coast of New Zealand on the family boat when her parents were sailing around the world. While she may have a considerable amount of skills, she has also shown us her impulsiveness. In December, she ran away from home in the Netherlands to the Bahamas, where she planned to buy a boat.

She is currently sailing with her dad, Dick, to Portugal, where she will begin her journey after a final round of testing and preparations. According to a report in the Telegraph (UK), Dekker has “shrugged off warnings from NATO commanders about piracy off the Horn of Africa and hoisted the black Jolly Roger of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as she set sail.”

The world will be watching her, and all we can do is hope for the best.

Taylor Michie is a 14-year old Annapolis resident and author of the sailing novella Racing Winds. Taylor is a sailor himself, sailing 420s in Annapolis. He is a Volvo Ocean Race fanatic, but enjoys other round-the-world sailing races like the Velux 5 Oceans and the Clipper Round the World Race. Taylor’s work has been featured in Soundings Magazine, The Capital, and, most notably, the Volvo Ocean Race in Boston, MA. Taylor was awarded the US Sailor of the Week in May 2009 by US Sailing. He is currently working on his second book, Whitecaps, and his environmental work through his charity, Racing Winds GreenBooks.

You can find Racing Winds on the web at www.racingwinds.com, where you can buy the book, and learn more about Taylor, his book, and his campaigns. You can also follow Racing Winds on Twitter, by visiting www.twitter.com/racingwinds, and on Facebook by searching “Racing Winds.”

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About the Author - Taylor Michie

A 14-year old author of a sailing novel, Racing Winds, high school student, and Eye on Annapolis contributor.

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  1. Jen says:

    “She showed us that even someone with a huge amount of experience and skill can be brought down by unpredictable weather conditions. Anything can happen when you’re at the mercy of the ocean.”

    YES, anything can happen when you’re at the mercy of the ocean…but that’s NOT what happened to Abby!!!!!!!
    Sunderland left on a boat she had almost no experience on. For that matter, other than sailing lasers in the lake, she had very little sailing experience despite what her father says. What she had was 24/7 contact with a great team of folks that wanted to keep her alive despite her naivety and her father’s pig-headedness.
    The boat itself was awesome and would have been great for an advanced sailor who could make use of its features…but Abby was NOT an advanced sailor.
    Abby had serious electrical deficits for the excess of electronics she was using and so she had to stop and restart her voyage almost immediately. She almost ran out of water because her single source of water went bad and she didn’t recognize it was a serious problem until it was almost too late and she didn’t have a clue what to do about it. She destroyed two excellent auto pilots because she had no idea how to trim her boat and use the superb ballast system that her Open 40 offered. Had she been an experienced sailor, she could have done 15 to 20 knots and averaged 8 to 10 knots on her Open 40, but instead she averaged barely over 4 knots. And of course there’s the elephant in the corner….she went into the Southern Ocean headed beneath Australia during their Winter which few sailors would ever do on purpose.
    Jessica Watson, the successful circumnavigator from Australia, was well trained, incredibly experienced and certified, and made it home barely before winter’s wrath began. What were the Sunderland’s thinking putting their poorly prepared and inexperienced daughter in those conditions? At 14, Laura is vastly more experienced than Abby was at departure. She knows her boat, knows herself, and will probably make it through most difficulties on her own wits. Laura should not be stained by the failed attempt of Abby Sunderland.

  2. Taylor says:

    As I began to read, I found mysElf agreeing with you. Then, as I read on, it became clear that our views conflict.

    If Abby is such an inept sailor, as you claim, then why did she make it from California to the Indian Ocean? I personally think it’s ignorant to say that she made it 14,000 nm into her journey just by luck and having a good support team.

    Also, where are you getting this information from? Surely her great lack of sailing skills would have been made evident by the ensuing media firestorm after her incident.

    For me, the fact that Laura Dekker ran away to the Bahamas after she was denied a sailing bid is evidence enough that what she may have in sailing ability is compromised by her hardheadedness and impulsiveness.

    As a 14-year old sailor myself, I still have huge doubts about the overall seaworthiness of Laura Dekker. You may also be forgetting that Zac Sunderland, Abby’s brother, completed his solo voyage successfully.

    If Laura makes it home without a hitch, I’ll never have been happier to be proved wrong.

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