- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MIDDELBURG, Netherlands (AP) — A 14-year-old Dutch sailor will be allowed to launch a risky attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, a court said Tuesday, clearing her for an adventure that could begin within two weeks.

Laura Dekker said she was thrilled to hear of the Middelburg family court’s decision to lift a guardianship order imposed on her last year after she said she wanted to set sail when she was still just 13.

“I was so happy I almost jumped into the water,” Laura told reporters at the harbor where her yacht is moored alongside the boat where she lives with her father.

Presiding Judge S. Kuypers said the decision and responsibility for Laura now “lies with her parents.”

“It is up to them to decide whether Laura can set off on her sail trip,” he said.

Laura Dekker’s plan ignited a worldwide debate on how far parents should go in supporting or encouraging their children’s improbable dreams. Both of Laura’s parents, who are separated, now say they support her attempt, though her mother initially had come out against it.

Her father on Tuesday brushed off criticism that he was pushing Laura to do the trip as “nonsense.”

“It was Laura’s plan from the very beginning,” Dick Dekker said. “I just support her in it.”

Laura, speaking in both Dutch and English, told reporters she would set off within two weeks for her starting point in Portugal, where she would test her two-masted yacht before embarking on the voyage.

Wearing a pink striped shirt, white trousers and pink sneakers, she then hopped onto her boat and steered it around the harbor for camera crews.

The court had been ruling on a request from the Dutch government’s umbrella childcare agency, the Council for Child Protection, to extend the guardianship order for another year to prevent Laura from setting sail.

The agency has two weeks to appeal and will study the court’s decision, spokesman Richard Bakker said.

In a surprising difference of opinion, the youth protection group looking after Laura had disagreed with the Council and said she was ready to sail. The group had been monitoring her education and preparations for months.

Since making headlines last year by announcing her intention, Laura has obtained a bigger boat and equipped it with modern navigation and safety equipment. She has studied everything from how to stitch her own wounds to how to cope with sleep deprivation and put out fires onboard her 38-foot twin-mast ketch.

Laura has worked very hard in recent weeks on her survival techniques,” her lawyer Peter de Lange said.

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