Dutch teenager to set off on solo voyage tomorrow

Laura Dekker will sail from Portugal in a bid to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe by boat.

THE HAGUE // Dutch teenager Laura Dekker will depart from Portugal on Saturday to start her bid to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, her manager said. "She leaves tomorrow," Peter Klarenbeek told AFP by telephone on Friday from the southern Portuguese town of Portimao where Dekker, 14, arrived a week ago after a 10-day test cruise from the Netherlands with her father on board. "Everything is ready," he said. Klarenbeek said the departure time has not been finalised, but stressed that Dekker would not give one-on-one media interviews as she had signed agreements promising exclusivity to a Dutch newspaper and television company. Dekker arrived in Portugal on her red-hulled, 11.5-metre ketch Guppy on August 14 in a docking kept under wraps from the media at her own request. She had set off from Den Osse in the southwest Netherlands on August 4, days after winning a 10-month court battle with child welfare authorities who had been preventing the voyage for fear it would stunt Dekker's social and emotional development. The girl wants to break the record for the youngest world solo sail set in May by Australian teenager Jessica Watson. Watson completed a non-stop, unassisted round-the-world trip a few days before her 17th birthday. Dekker turns 17 on September 20, 2012, allowing her a little over two years to complete the trip, during which she intends to stop at several ports along the way. 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, Dekker completed her first solo voyage, to the northern Netherlands, at the age of 11. * Agence France-Presse