Say what you like about junior sailing records, 16-year-old circumnavigator Laura Dekker is a great role model


Congratulations to Dutch teenager Laura Dekker who has set the latest in what is a quite new category of sailing ‘non-records’ for being the youngest person to sail alone round the world. She completed the circle in St Maarten in the Caribbean after one of her longest non-stop passages from Cape Town.

Dekker, who turned 16 in September, was sailing Guppy, a 38ft Jeanneau Sun Fizz ketch. She made plentiful stops along the way, as planned, unlike the non-stop record set in 2010 by Australian 16-year-old Jessica Watson.

Her route was the more educational in many ways and as it went through the nicer parts of the South Pacific is the one I’d prefer to take when eventually I set off on my record attempt (category open to suggestions).

Laura Dekker’s progress, like that of British teenager Mike Perham and Jessica Watson before her (the latter became firm friends and recently sailed together in the Sydney-Hobart race), shows why it’s probably not wise to generalise about the abilities and maturity of youngsters.

Most couldn’t do it and wouldn’t wish to, but these are wonderful role models in an age of quite negative perceptions of teenagers and a shining example of what young people can achieve.

Following all three journeys, what struck me about the logs of all these junior circumnavigators was their remarkable resilience, determination and unquenchable cheeriness. They contrast markedly with the workaday earnestness and occasionally quite depressed reports often sent back by professional skippers on solo round the world races.

Read Dekker’s blogs at and see for yourself.