Dutch court to decide NZ girl's solo sail this week

A 14 year-old New Zealand-born girl born is waiting on a Dutch court to this week decide whether to allow her to achieve her dream of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Dutch child protection services are seeking to prolong Laura Dekker's official supervision, possibly thwarting her plans, Mariska Nieuwendijk, a spokeswoman for the district court in Middelburg in the southwest Netherlands, told the AFP newsagency.

Dekker needs to complete the trip - which she expected to take two years - before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012 to set the record, but child welfare experts have previously raised concerns about her being cut off from parents and peers and other social stimulus or interaction.

When she first raised plans for the voyage to start when she turned 14 last year, the District Court in Utrecht granted temporary custody of Dekker to the Dutch Council for Child Protection.

Dekker immediately requested her municipality to de-register her as a resident so that she could move to New Zealand, where she was born on a yacht during her parents' round-the-world voyage.

"I was born in Whangarei," she told NZPA. "And of course I have a New Zealand passport".

Jessica Watson, 16, of Australia, whose parents are New Zealanders, holds the record for the youngest round-the-world sailor having this year completed the voyage on her yacht Ella's Pink Lady, though whether she had sailed far enough to claim the record is in dispute.

American Abby Sunderland, 16 this week had to be rescued in a remote zone of the Indian Ocean after her 12m yacht was dismasted.

- NZPA

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