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Teenage Dutch girl in battle to sail solo around the globe

[ 2009-08-27 14:20]     字号 [] [] []  
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Thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker wants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world and her parents think that's a great idea.

But the Dutch Council for Child Protection is so concerned about the dangers of the marathon voyage it has asked a court to grant it temporary custody of Laura so it can do what her parents refuse to: stop the trip.

Judges at Utrecht District Court were to announce tomorrow whether they will halt Laura's record-breaking plans. In the meantime, the legal battle has ignited a wide-ranging debate about the role that parents should play in their children's risky adventures.

The rat race to become a so-called "super child" - the youngest to accomplish some grueling feat - can be fueled by ambitious parents, ultra-focused children with talent, or youngsters with a deep need to please or be praised, psychologists say.

Dutch social workers fear that could be an issue in Laura's case, as she lives with her Dutch father who is divorced from her German mother.

"Laura has divorced parents and it is very normal for a child of this age to be very loyal to the parent (he or she) is living with," Child Protection spokesman Richard Bakker told The Associated Press. "How much does she identify herself with her father, who is a good sailor?"

Laura and her father appeared at a court hearing on Monday to discuss the council's request but the mother did not show up, Bakker said.

Record-breaking attempts by children can become memorable personal triumphs but also run the risk of turning to tragedy - with the inevitable recriminations for having allowed it to happen.

Besides the physical hazards, experts also warn that being alone for so long at such a young age could hinder the child's emotional development.

"A 13-year-old girl is in the middle of her development and you don't do that alone - you need peers and adults," said Micha de Winter, a professor of child psychology at Utrecht University.

Adults can choose to be alone, he said, "but for children it is not good."

Laura was born in New Zealand while her parents were on a round-the-world sailing trip and spent the first four years of her life on the ocean. She was not available for comment.

Yet speaking recently to a Dutch children's new show, Laura said she had been sailing solo since she was six and began dreaming of sailing around the world when she was 10.

"In the beginning, they asked if I was sure I really wanted to do it," she said. “But I really wanted to do it so my parents said, 'Good, we'll help you'."

The trip means Laura would have to drop out of high school and teach herself while at sea or in port. Dutch authorities have to give permission for such a plan but say such home schooling must be supervized by an adult.

Laura hopes to set sail in September and plans to take two years, resting in ports to avoid bad weather.

(英语点津 许雅宁编辑)

Teenage Dutch girl in battle to sail solo around the globe

About the broadcaster:

Teenage Dutch girl in battle to sail solo around the globe

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move