Dutch 14-year-old Laura Dekker begins her solo sail amid criticism about her age
Credit: Barry Schultz/Zuma

Abby Sunderland wasn’t able to do it but Laura Dekker is hoping she’ll be the youngest person to solo circumnavigate the globe.

The 14-year-old from the Netherlands left the southwestern tip of Spain on Saturday and “everything is going well,” manager Peter Klarenbeek tells the Associated Press. “She’s very happy.”

Dekker has encountered some strong wind – which forced Sunderland, the 16-year-old Southern California sailor, to call off her around-the-world trip in June – but Klarenbeek says the weather is “no problem.”

Born aboard a boat off the coast of New Zealand, Dekker from the start developed a passion for the sea. The teen, according to her Web site, was 6 years old when she sailed a dingy across a lake and seven years later, on her 13th birthday, made the trek to England.

But even with her level of experience, Dekker’s solo voyage, like Sunderland’s trip, has sparked controversy, including criticism from Dutch child protection authorities.

To prepare for the sail – and quiet critics – she replaced the boat she originally planned to use with a bigger, sturdier one and took courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation.

Dekker plans to spend at least eight weeks in the Canary Islands off northwest Africa while the Atlantic storm season dies down. Her manager said she’ll still be completing schoolwork and will also receive family visits.

The trip is expected to last a year or more.