Saturday, May 15, 2010

Girl Who Sailed Around The World Hasn't Learned to Drive

Today, Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the world solo nonstop.

The 16-year-old Australian landed in Sydney and was greeted by well wishers including Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who called her "Australia's newest hero." Her journey began last October.

Although Watson has just sailed solo she has not yet obtained her driver's license.

Watson, however, has been subject to criticism for her journey. Of course, some objected to her embarking on this at such a young age while others have made claims she didn't completely circumnavigate the earth. But even if there had been no dispute as to whether Watson had circumnavigated the globe the World Sailing Speed Record Council wasn't going to recognize her achievement anyway because of her age. A no win situation.

Well, whatever the World Sailing Speed Record Council thinks about Watson, I think it's a magnificent accomplishment. How many adults could have endured more than 200 days in rough seas all alone?

But Watson isn't the only young female who is sailing around the world. Sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland (who is five months younger than Watson) is currently sailing around the world. However, she did have to stop last month in Cape Town, South Africa for repairs. But she still plans on circumnavigating the globe.

Then there's Laura Dekker. She's 14 and wants to beat out Watson. Dekker wanted to begin her journey last September. However, the Dutch authorities have been holding Dekker back. Dutch social services and the courts made Dekker a ward of the court in October. In December, Dekker ran away and somehow made her way to the Dutch island of Saint Maartens before she was recognized and returned to The Netherlands. However, this is due to end in July and it appears Dekker will set sail sometime before her 15th birthday unless the Dutch courts intervene.

I don't deny Dekker is very, very young. I also don't deny that sailing around the world solo is a risky proposition for anyone never mind a 14-year-old girl. But this 14-year-old girl was born at sea, has spent a good part of her life there and has been sailing boats since she was six. This girl isn't exactly into Justin Bieber. I think the Dutch government should leave Dekker alone and let her pursue her dream.

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