A Dutch teen sailed into the record books today as she ended her yearlong journey, supposedly becoming the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the globe.
Laura Dekker, who was born on a boat in a New Zealand port and says she spent the first four years of her life at sea, celebrated her 16th birthday on her 38-foot yacht “Guppy” during her voyage. She sailed into port on the island of St. Maarten after travelling 27,000 nautical miles around the world.
Dekker claims to be the youngest person to have completed the trip, but the Guinness Book of World Records and the World Sailing Speed Council refuse to certify her claim because they say they don’t want to encourage any future, dangerous attempts by younger and younger sailors.
“Since (I left) a lifetime of experiences have gone by. It feels like it was just yesterday, but at the same time, it seems like it was an eternity ago,” Dekker wrote on her blog on Friday.
Dekker was greeted today by her mother, father, and grandparents, as well as dozens of others who cheered her on as she stepped foot on the dock. She started her journey from the same port in St. Maarten on Jan. 20, 2011.
Dutch officials tried to prevent the trip when a court blocked her original departure at age 14 in 2009. Child welfare authorities asked that Dekker be removed from the care of her father, Dick Dekker, and be placed under state supervision to prevent risks to her safety, but on July 29, 2010, Dekker wrote, according to a translation from the Dutch, “After a one year ‘battle,’ I am allowed to go!! This is so great!”
The round-the-world trip was highlighted with multiple stops in ports around the world. As her trip came to an end, Dekker reflected on her experience.
“I am looking forward to my arrival and to officially end my journey even though I feel like I already accomplished what I set out to do a long time ago,” Dekker wrote. “I have already learned very much about myself along the way and I also have learned very much from all the different places and the many different people that I came in contact with in so many different countries.”
Other teens to have completed the trip include Jessica Watson of Australia at age 16, Michael Perham of England at age 17, and Zac Sunderland of America at age 17.
Abby Sunderland, Zac’s sister, attempted to complete the trip in 2010 at the age of 16, when her boat capsized and was dismasted in the Indian ocean, and she had to be rescued.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.