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August 29, 2009

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Teen round-world sailor stuck in court

A 13-YEAR-OLD Dutch girl who hoped to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world was put under state care for two months yesterday while psychologists assess her capacity to undertake the risky voyage.

Judges said Laura Dekker would face both mental and physical risks if she were allowed to go ahead with her planned two-year trip in her 8-meter boat named Guppy.

The court said she could continue living with her father, but would become the responsibility of Dutch child care officials while an independent child psychologist evaluated her.

The girl was out sailing yesterday and did not attend the District Court hearing, but her father, Dick Dekker, did but made no comment.

Richard Bakker, spokesman for the Council for Child Protection, welcomed the ruling.

"We are satisfied with this decision," he said, appealing to the father "to cooperate with the investigation and ensure Laura's safety."

The court did not remove Laura from her father's home nor did it rule out the possibility of her eventually going on the worldwide trip. The family's lawyer, Peter de Lange, said the judges' decision supported the notion that "you are not a bad parent if you try to help your child fulfill her dream."

The court will issue a second ruling on October 26 on whether to extend the council's responsibility for the teenager.

Dekker, an experienced sailor who raised his daughter on a yacht for the first four years of her life, had supported Laura's plan to begin a round-the-world voyage next month.

But Dutch social workers had argued that Laura Dekker is too young to weigh up the dangers of the trip.


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