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Dutch court to rule on teen`s solo world sail bid

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-07-24 18:09:30

THE HAGUE: A Dutch court will rule Tuesday in the latest bid by child protection services to stop a 14-year-old girl`s bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

The Child Protection Council of Utrecht, in the central Netherlands, asked the Middelburg district court a week earlier to extend the girl`s supervision by 12 months, citing fears for her social and emotional development.

The request was made at a hearing to review Laura Dekker`s state of readiness for the two-year trip.

"A 14-year-old child cannot appreciate the risks of a solo trip of this nature," council spokesman Richard Bakker told AFP.

Dekker needs to complete the trip before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012, to make the record.

Her lawyer Peter de Lange said both the girl`s parents support her bid. Her mother had initially expressed doubts, "but has now concluded that the interventions of the child protection services have not been in the best interests of her daughter."

The girl`s plans to set sail last September were thwarted by the intervention of child care officials and a subsequent court ruling placing her under their supervision until July 1, when the school year ended.

In December, she breached the court order, running away to the Dutch Caribbean island territory of Sint Maarten (St. Martin). Police had to escort her back home.

The supervision was later extended to August 1.

"We don`t believe there is any reason for her continued supervision," Dekkers` De Lange told AFP.

"She has met all the court`s conditions, and an independent sail expert has approved her sailing plan."

The girl had obtained a first aid diploma, registered with a distance education facility to continue her schooling at sea, gained solo sailing experience and learnt sleep management techniques, the lawyer said.

In May, Australia`s Jessica Watson became the youngest person at 16 to sail around the world non-stop, solo and unassisted. But in June, a US teenager on a similar mission was plucked from her stricken yacht in the Indian Ocean.

According to De Lange, Watson set the record three days before her 17th birthday, and Dekker intended to improve on that "even if it is by a day".

Either party could still appeal Tuesday`s ruling.

Judgment will be handed down at a public hearing at 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) on Tuesday.

BDST: 1540hrs, July 25, 2010

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