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Algemeen Dagblad - Tania Aebi interview of July 2010

"Let Laura follow her dream"

Jacquelien Nienhuis

It was her father who said to her: you got such a Micky-Mouse life, better go sailing. In 1985 the then 18 year old Tania Aebi started on a sailing voyage around the world. "You have to follow your own dreams" she says in support of Laura Dekker.

Tania Aebi clicks her tongue as she reads the recent news about the preparations of the Dutch "Zeilmeisje" Laura Dekker on her computer. "She planned it way better than me. She has a good boat including all the necessary navigation equipment and she is also an experienced sailor. I first had to learn to navigate," the American laughs.
Aebi started on her circumnavigation in 1985 at an age of 18 with her boat "Varuna" from New York. Up to then she was the youngest person ever who did an adventure like this. And like Laura´s adventure there were many comments from people everywhere. She shrugs. "When Columbus had listened to all those naysayers then America might have never been discovered. You have to follow your own dreams".
Aebi doesn´t like to compare her voyage to those of the nowadays young sailors. "I had to use a sextant and sea charts. Now there is GPS, you can send e-mails, you can phone and write blogs. Considering all this, the idea of the lonesome sailor who is sailing completely on her own fades. There are so many eyes watching that I´m in doubt if there is any room for being depressive and lonely. And there must be room for fear because it keeps you alert.
Being a rebellious teenager, Aebi was provoked by her father to do the circumnavigation, hoping that she’d give up her slovenly life. "He said: ‘You are living such a Mickey-Mouse life – you’d better go sailing’. Well, that impressed me". A handful of souvenirs in her house at Corinth, Vermont, reminds to her voyage. On the wall there is a black and white picture on which her boat seems to be dispatched by an enourmous wave. "This was taken in the Red Sea. It was very dangerous there due to storms and pirates."
Nevertheless, Aebi is not in sorrow about Laura´s safety. "There will be some waves but she sails in seasons when there are no great storms to be expected. And once she reaches the Red Ocean I´m sure she gets an escort."
Of course, there are riscs Aebi adds. "She might die underway, yes. But this will be because she follows her dream. This is not a crime, this is inspiring, nearly mythological. By the way: there are also riscs at home. Youth-Festivals, drinking, smoking and driving. There were moments when I thought: My kids would be much saver at sea."

Aebi obviously is upset about the critics from outsiders on Dekker´s adventure. "Her parents know her best. As they have faith to her then how can someone else dare to interfere on this? Many people who shout "scandal" compare their son or daughter to Laura. They forget that each child is different. Not long ago my youngest son of 18 was one week alone at home. After two days he had demolished my car. I wouldn´t sent him at sea solo. But Laura for it´s very clear that she is a special and smart child.
Her own voyage helped her to find into life, Aebi says - and peace. "I have reached something, I have a good story and I don’t need to prove anything to me any longer."
She names this "a perfect school". "You learn to be creative in repairing the equipment and in taking care of yourself." That Dekker will miss some years of school makes her laugh. "You can go back to school later at any time, that´s what I did, too. But you can only once sail around the world at fourteen."

On Tuesday [July 27th 2010] it will turn out if Laura is allowed to do so. Then the Court decides whether the supervision over Laura will be extended or not. 

Algemeen Dagblad - Tuesday, January 24th 2012

By Susanne Docter

Laura Dekker sailed around the world. She fulfilled her dream and she hasn't thought of a new dream yet. According to her manager it is as sure as eggs is eggs what she will do now: she will go back to school and get her graduation.

After an exhausting arrival sailor Laura Dekker took the chance to relax completely for several days. She was kept away from the media and several other duties. According to her manager Gerard van Erp, serious talks about her schooling will follow still this week. "We will discuss that with her to make it clear to her - fortunately, her family supports me - that she has no other choice than to go back to school and get her graduation."
Since her departure Laura is following a correspondence course of the Wereldschool ['World School', Lelystad, The Netherlands]. According to the school Laura 'may restart on her studies at anytime she wants'. Laura has all the necessary books aboard and she does exactly the same as her peers ashore, however, during the last months of her trip Laura put her schooling on the backburner.

Chemistry experiments

She also has to write synopses of books and to write businesslike letters, she has to do math exams and she even has to do chemistry experiments aboard. Since her boat is her 'home' she will continue with her studies while she is at berth in Sint Maarten.
It's up to Laura to choose her way - whether to continue her schooling via the Wereldschool or at a normal school ashore. She said that she has definitely decided that she feels like going back to school. "Not because I have to do so. I never do anything because it has to be - I do it because I want it."
In van Erp's opinion this will happen in the island of Bonaire where he is living with his wife and his two teenage kids. "She already spent five weeks with us [in early 2011] and it worked perfectly. There is a post-secondary school in Bonaire she can go to and she can have company with my kids. At the moment a student is living at our house and he could give her some extra lessons in chemistry, the only subject she is behind on."
The chance that Laura is bothered by school officials is very little at the moment. Especially since she is no longer registered as a citizen of The Netherlands and the obligation to attend school is limited to those children who are registered.
Ingrado, the organization of the school officials, already declared before Laura's departure that they won't bother her anymore since she is no longer registered. Jeugdzorg [Youth Care] and the Raad voor de kinderbescherming [Council for Childprotection] too promised not to cover with Laura's case furthermore.
The only one who could be affected is Laura's father since he failed in his role as a father. According to the school official in Goes [Dutch province of Zeeland] he deliberately made sure that Laura could no longer be affected by the obligation to attend school from deregistering her from the registration office.
The officer relies upon a ruling of the Court of Den Bosch [Dutch province of Noord-Brabant] on parents who deregistered their children to go on a world trip for nine months. In the end they were fined with 1500 EURO.
In theory Laura's father might face a similar fine. In van Erp's opinion this is very unlikely since the period thru which Laura neglected her schoolwork was shorter than nine months. Around her 16th birthday she decided to put her schoolwork aside.
Since Laura is 16 now she has no longer an obligation to attend school. Nevertheless, she has an obligation by law to receive a graduation before her 18th birthday. "This will be very easy for her" van Erp declares. "She is not too far behind".
As an official comment, Carry Rozemund, chairman of Ingrado, the organization of the school officials in the Netherlands, says that Laura first has to get some rest; it's an advice to all the school officials to leave Laura in rest for the time being. "Laura has an extraordinary trip behind her and she first needs to recover. All the pressure 'have to, have to, have to (go to school)' certainly was not good for her." Rozemund says. "If she decides to come back to the Netherlands and wants to go to school there, the official might help her. However, all she needs now is rest."


Simpson Bay - With concentration Jillian Schlesinger watches film scenes showing Laura Dekker's arrival in Sint Maarten. Schlesinger followed Dekker's journey all over the world and is busy working on a documentary about it that will be released in summer. "The shooting is over", she sights, "and now the postproduction follows". An article about Laura Dekker in the New York Times in August 2009 caught the American filmmaker's attention. "It was titled 'How young is too young to sail around the world?' and I was fascinated by her story" And it kept fascinating her. "It seemed so extraordinary to me: a young woman who fights for her dream that was completely impossible for a woman only a few generations ago." She tells that she can find herself in Laura's dream. "My father was a passionate sailor and when he brought me to bed he always told me stories about sailing. When I was five years old he took me with him on sailing tours, and there I learnt what it means having only water all around me." Schlesinger wrote a letter to Laura, telling her that she would like to make a documentary about her. "She liked my idea and in fact we do it together. I even started filming her before the beginning of her trip. When I met her and learnt about her skills and her thirst for knowledge, I immediately knew that her trip would end up successfully." She met with Laura on nine different places all over the world. The American hopes that the film will be finished before summer. Then she would like to show it on film festivals, in schools and to sailing societies. "I think this will be an important film especially for women since it shows that you can make your dream come true if you really want it. No matter if it is about sailing around the world or simply learning to read and to write." She herself also learnt her lesson. "Now I know for sure that I want to go on making films about unusual people or places. I am sure that Laura will inspire not only me but many millions of people. She is a real-life-super hero."

All articles were written by Suzanne Docter

Many thanks to the Algemeen Dagblad, Rotterdam

Algemeen Dagblad - Saturday, January 21st 2012

By Suzanne Docter
After one and a half year Zeilmeisje [Sailor girl] Laura Dekker (16) can hug her family again

Zeilmeisje Laura Dekker will arrive in Sint Maarten this afternoon. The team that is preparing her arrival expects thousands of spectators. Laura herself is shrugging about that. 'Everyone is nervous except me' she says.

The sun is brightly shining this early Friday morning as Laura Dekker (16) is bobbing up and down 170 nautical miles [315 kilometres or 196 land miles] off the coast of the island of Sint Maarten. Her satellite phone is not working and so no one can phone her at the very last day before her arrival, but actually the little 'radio silence' is very welcome.
Now she can spend the last 24 hours of her round the world trip with reading, listening to music or with watching the waves and sailing of course. "And with avoiding the islands", the teenager jokes via her on board mail connection that is still working.
"Unlike everyone might think I am not nervous at all. I am sure that those who are waiting for me are much more nervous than me" she writes quite certain.
The wind is well meaning to the deep tanned, petite but extremely strong sailor. If everything goes well, she only needs to go another 40 nautical miles on Saturday morning, a distance she can easily cover before her planned arrival on 3 pm.
"We expressly told her that she must not stop anywhere and keep on sailing, around the island in case of need... you never know" her new spokesman Gerard van Erp declares with an certain undertone of misgiving.
The Sint Maarten Yacht Club where Laura will arrive this afternoon. One day before her arrival it is as quite like aboard the sailor's boat. Only a poster on a wall and an article in a local newspaper lying on one of the tables reveal Laura's arrival. The island's locals know about her arrival but they don't know the exact time. 'We'll know it when we see it' is their favourite proverb, and that's the way they do it - even today.
However, the arrival was prepared in fever for weeks. Van Erp has lunch with the club's manager Petra Gilders when suddenly security guards come along to ask for the very last details. Tomorrow the Yacht Club will be hermetical closed. Everyone who is not a member of Laura's family has to watch her arrival from a distance.
"I expect some 300 spectators," says Petra to Gerard, who looks at her with an expression of surprise and then starts laughing. "No, there will be much more! How many people are living here? Eighty-thousand; don't you think that many of them will come? There will be dozens of Dutch fans, too... there was no flight to get."
Petra nods. "And there will be many people with boats to welcome her at sea."
One of those boats will carry Laura's father, mother and her grandparents who will arrive here this Friday. And of course her sister Kim, who got permission by the school officials at the very last moment.
Laura can hardly wait to hug her family again she wrote today in her weekly column that she kept writing for one and a half years for the Algemeen Dagblad, the newspaper in that she brought her plan to the public in 2009. She wrote that it will feel 'weird' once she has finished the trip. "I don't know if I will sail around the world again. First I'll take a rest."
She has not seen her mother and her sister for one year. And if the planning for her arrival had been up to the teen, she undoubtedly would have chosen for a dinner at the McDonald’s.
Instead she gets a big welcome that is scheduled meticulously. She will be welcomes by Rhoda Arrindell, the minister of sports and education of Sint Maarten. In the evening there will be a dinner aboard a mega-yacht. According to Gerard van Erp, the official ceremony will be over then. There are dozens of people 'who want something from Laura'. From cash-offers for a photo shooting - "we don't start on something like that" - to 246 requests for an interview from all over the world.
"Thomas Gottschalk, the German TV presenter that hosted Wetten dass? for many years, would like to have Laura on his new show on Monday night. He wants to send a private plane for her, money is no object. No way" van Erp says. "On Sunday morning Laura will give two interviews, and after that we will see what she feels like."
The sailor really deserves some rest after her long voyage. However, van Erp insists that after several days there will be serious talks about Laura's future. "She has to finish school and she has to think about what she wants to do after that."
There is no lack for offers. Director Jillian Schlesinger hopes that she and Laura will visit film festivals, sailing societies and schools together to present Schlesingers documentary 'about a girl who had a dream since she was eight years old and who did something no one believed she could do'. "Laura is a great inspiration for women all over the world. No matter if it is about sailing around the world or studying."
No matter how busy everyone is about her arrival - Laura stays calm as ever. She 'simply' wants all the hustle and bustle wash over her.
Earlier she told that she wants to sail to New Zealand "to settle down there and to do 'something' with sailing over there" thereafter. Will she make this plans come true...?
First she has to arrive. It must not go wrong so short before the finish line. She has to keep watching the islands and to stay alert, but sometimes her mind wanders. "Of course I am looking forward to it. To me this is neither an end nor a beginning. It's just another arrival - like many before."

No entry in the Record Books

Laura's sailing trip won't be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. The publishers don't want to recognize any more age records to avoid encouraging even younger people to try a similar record attempt. Laura was aware of this even before she started on her voyage and she does not care about it. "I do this trip for myself and for no one else."