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Dutch teen on solo round-the-world bid


Sets off from Portugal away from media spotlight


— PHOTO: AFP

Laura Dekker speaks to the press in the harbour of Brouwershaven in this July 27, 2010 file photo.

PORTIMAO ( Portugal): Dutch solo sailor Laura Dekker, 14, began her round-the-world record bid from Portugal on Saturday, after slipping away from the media spotlight, said the television company covering her voyage.

“She left”, told AFP, saying she had spoken to the teenager's agent in Portugal.

It said Ms. Dekker, whose bid had been held up for nearly a year by a Dutch court ban, had begun her voyage, but could not say exactly from where she left.

Ms. Dekker had arrived in the southern Portuguese port of Portimao on August 14 aboard her red-hulled, 38 foot ketch Guppy accompanied by her father, 10 days after leaving the Netherlands.

At the end of July she won a 10-month court battle with child welfare authorities who had been preventing the voyage for fear it would stunt Ms. Dekker's social and emotional development. The petite blonde wants to break the record for the youngest world solo sail set in May by Australian teenager Jessica Watson. Ms. Watson completed a non-stop, unassisted round-the-world trip a few days before her 17th birthday.

Ms. Dekker turns 17 on September 20, 2012, allowing her a little over two years to complete the trip.

She has said her route from Portugal will take her across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Pacific via the Panama Canal. She plans to stop at the Galapagos islands before heading to Australia, Thailand and through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden back to Europe.

Born in New Zealand during a round-the-world sailing trip by her parents, Ms. Dekker completed her first solo voyage, to the northern Netherlands, at 11.

On her blog later, Ms. Dekker said there had been a number of glitches, affecting a water pump, GPS and radar system. — AFP

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