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Dutch Court Clears 14-Year-Old Sailor for Solo World Trip


A Dutch court has cleared the way for a 14-year-old girl's controversial bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

In a ruling Tuesday, the court in the city of Middelburg ordered an end to supervision of Laura Dekker by child care authorities. Officials had blocked the teen's earlier sailing plans as too risky. The judge said it now is up to Dekker's estranged parents to decide whether the girl can embark on the voyage. Both parents have expressed support for the mission.

Earlier, Dekker wrote on her blog that she could launch her round-the-world sailing attempt from Portugal within two weeks if she received court approval.

A Dutch court placed Dekker under its supervision last year after she said she was preparing to set off on the voyage while still 13. The order was due to expire this month.

Child care authorities had asked the court to extend its jurisdiction for another year. They have the right to appeal Tuesday's ruling.

Dekker fled from the custody of her guardians in December by flying to the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Martin. Dutch police later escorted her home. In recent months, she had been training and equipping her boat for the mission with the help of supporters.

In May, 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the world alone, non-stop and unassisted.

Another 16-year-old, Abby Sunderland of the United States, embarked on a similar voyage in June. But she had to be rescued from her stricken yacht, after huge waves snapped the mast of her boat in the Indian Ocean.

Critics have cited the inherent risks in such voyages by teenagers, and have also pointed to the costs incurred by Australian maritime officials in mounting rescue operations for Sunderland.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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