Watson warns teen solo sailor

Teen sailor Jessica Watson. Photo / Getty Images
Teen sailor Jessica Watson. Photo / Getty Images

BRISBANE - Teenage sailor Jessica Watson says good preparation will be the key to a 14-year-old New Zealand-born girl's bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Dutch judges on Tuesday gave the green light for Laura Dekker's record attempt, rejecting a move to keep her under state supervision.

Sailing has been a life-long passion for the Dutch youngster, who was born aboard of a boat off the coast of New Zealand and holds a New Zealand and a Dutch passport.

The Child Protection Council, a justice ministry body, asked the court last week to extend Laura's supervision by 12 months to August 2011 to stop her departure, citing fears for her social and emotional wellbeing.

She won the 10-month legal battle but an appeal has not been ruled out.

Laura's plans to set sail last September were thwarted by the intervention of child care officials and a subsequent court ruling placing her under their supervision until July 1, when the school year ended.

Laura, who has the backing of her parents, would need to complete the two-year trip before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012, to set a new record.

In May, Australia's Jessica Watson became the youngest person at 16 to sail around the world non-stop, solo and unassisted.

US teenager Abby Sunderland was on a similar mission in June, but she had to be plucked from her stricken yacht in the Indian Ocean.

However, the World Speed Sailing Record Council does not recognise records set by sailors under 18.

Jessica told AAP she hoped Laura had done her homework.

"I don't know much about Laura or her voyage, but the one piece of advice I was given over and over again was the emphasis is on preparation," she said.

"The right boat, the right equipment and the experience is what it's about."

"If everything works out I will be able to start on my voyage and sail to Portugal within the next two weeks," Laura wrote on her blog on July 25, before the hearing.

At age 11 she set sail on a solo trip to the northern Dutch province of Friesland and by 13 she had sailed from Holland to England.


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