Fifteen-year-old solo sailor on world cruise reaches Papeete

Laura at the helm
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Dutch 15-year-old solo sailor Laura Dekker has made her way through French Polynesia to arrive on 8th June to the capital Papeete, putting her about half way across her second and largest ocean, the Pacific.

She has just arrived from a south-easterly sail with good trade winds behind her from the Marquesas, and all is going well, according to her blog.

Laura has dreamed for a long time of becoming the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the world, overcoming many barriers before she was allowed to start her journey while still only 14.

So far, since departing on Aug. 21, 2010, Laura has sailed across the Atlantic, transited the Panama Canal in April and sailed halfway across the Pacific without a major incident. She said recently that she hopes to be in Australia in November.

Laura Dekker on her Jeanneau Ginfizz ketch Guppy small
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Unlike other recent non-stop circumnavigators, Dekker is travelling like a typical world cruiser, enjoying her explorations in each of the ports she visits. As for the record she covets but hardly mentions, she has until a few days before Sept. 20, 2012, her 17th birthday, to complete her voyage. If she achieves this she will also have travelled much further but on an easier route than Australia's Jessica Watson, who simply skimmed above the equator before sailing most of her eight month journey through the Southern Ocean.

After leaving Gibraltar, Dekker spent several months in the Canary Islands waiting for the hurricane season to finish before sailing across the Atlantic. Then in late February, she left her 38-foot ketch Guppy in Bonaire, an island off the north coast of South America, and flew home to the Netherlands, where she attended the Amsterdam Boat Show in early March.

Since leaving the Panama Canal, she has stopped at the Galapagos Islands and most recently in the Marquesas Islands, in May.

Even if Laura completes her voyage before she turns seventeen in 2012, any record she claims to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world would be unofficial. Guinness World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council(WSSRC) have decided they will no longer recognise records for 'youngest' sailors, presumably to avoid encouraging dangerous attempts. The last record acknowledged by the WSSRC was that of Australian Jesse Martin, who sailed solo non-stop round the world on the traditional longer route for world solo records in 1999. He was 18.

The present unofficial record as the youngest person to sail solo around the world is held by Jessica Watson of Australia, who completed a 210-day solo nonstop circumnavigation in 2010, at age 16.

The interesting thing to watch now is whether Laura will sail through pirate-infested north Indian Ocean, or will take the longer route round Africa to reach Europe again.