Dutch teenager blocked from solo sail

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JEB SHARP: I'm Jeb Sharp and this is The World. A 13-year-old girl in the Netherlands wants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. But today a Dutch court said not so fast. Laura Dekker had planned to set sail within days on her 26-foot yacht, the Guppy. But now she's under state supervision while a child psychologist examines her ability to cope with the two-year journey. The World's Laura Lynch reports.

LAURA LYNCH: Perhaps Laura Dekker was born to the challenge. Her mother gave birth to her onboard a yacht and she spent the first four years of her life sailing around the world with her parents. Sailing she says is in her blood.

TRANSLATOR: From the age of 10 I wanted to sail around the world. I just want to know the world � to discover it. I just want to live a bit.

LYNCH: But it's quite a bit more than most 13-year-olds take on. And that's apparently reason enough for a Dutch court to halt Laura's plans to set sail. Judge M.C. Oostendrop delivered the ruling today in Utrecht.

TRANSLATOR: The court's ruling is as follows: It rejects the primary request of the childcare authority to remove custody away from the parents and puts Laura under temporary supervision of the childcare bureau from today until the 30th of October 2009.

LYNCH: In fact Laura will still be allowed to live with her father but she'll be under state supervision until the court decides whether she can set sail. Richard Bakker of the Dutch Council for Child Protection says although she may now miss the chance to break records Laura's welfare is the main priority.

RICHARD BAKKER: Well the end issue for us is the development of Laura and we are concerned about the development of Laura. And the decision of the court is quite clear about that � that they gave us time to do more research about the development.

LYNCH: The ruling comes just a day after 17-year-old Michael Perham sailed back to Britain and became the world's youngest solo circumnavigator. It was a trip beset with technical problems, 50-foot waves, and long bouts of loneliness. Speaking from his boat off the Devon coast, he said the trip for Laura would be difficult but possible.

MICHAEL PERHAM: I was able to sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean when I was 14 so it's definitely possible to do it younger. But you know is Laura physical strong enough to handle a boat in all situations?

LYNCH: For the first man ever to sail around the world on his own it's more a matter of mental and emotional toughness. Robin Knox Johnston was at the ripe old age of 30 when he completed the journey in 1969. He says with today's high tech equipment Laura could keep in touch with people on land.

ROBIN KNOX JOHNSTON: But then when things go wrong on a boat you are alone. I mean you have no one to help you deal with them. You can be very tired and the boat's being thrown around and something's gone wrong on deck. You can't pick up the phone and ask for help. You've got to deal with that yourself.
LYNCH: Some question whether Laura's dream is really her parents' idea. The family's lawyer, Peter de Lange denies that. He says the parents tried to discourage her but she convinced them.

PETER DE LANGE: And then she rents by herself a boat � the finance, the communication, the safety, the registrations. So it's was really a top job.

LYNCH: So now it will be down to a psychologist to spend time with Laura subjecting her to a series of tests to assess her maturity and her ability to cope with stress. She may yet be allowed to pursue her dream. But psychologist Linda Blair says this is the right decision � for now.

LINDA BLAIR: None of us knows the heart and soul of anybody else that well. What the Dutch government is doing is saying we're going to look as best we can. They have a duty of care that is correct because we have to set general guidelines. And they're absolutely right to do what they're doing. But I don't like to shut the door on the possibility of exceptional people because that's what it's all about in this world.

LYNCH: As for the young sailor herself she didn't come to today's court hearing. After learning of the ruling she did what she likes to do best. She went sailing. For The World I'm Laura Lynch.