Monday 20 January 2014

Laura Dekker at Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck - Part 1

Photo_Chr.-Lagemann_ S-Spillmann_Th-Weber

On October 6, 2013, Laura gave a presentation about her circumnavigation at Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck “Kabelmetal” in Windeck-Schladern (Germany).

Please enjoy!

For the full text undivided in parts, maybe you will need to login to Blogger using your Google+ account:


Many thanks to West North for reviewing my text.
Photo credit: Chr. Lagemann, S. Spillmann, Th. Weber

„Why is Laura Dekker giving her only public presentation in Europe in Windeck?“ – With that question to Laura Dekker host Jürgen Orthaus opened the event in the “Kabelmetal” hall of Bürgerkulturzentrum (Civic Culture Center) Windeck in Windeck-Schladern on October 6, 2013 shortly after 6 pm. The story of a journey was to be the program for that night, actually an account of an unusual journey - the world circumnavigation of Laura Dekker. Beg your pardon? Laura Dekker? The world famous youngest ever solo circumnavigator makes a presentation in Windeck? Indeed you got that right! Laura Dekker herself is honoring us with her presence.

Let’s recapitulate. In late summer 2009 New Zealand born and Dutch citizen Laura Dekker but also holds German nationality, announced her plans to sail around the world. What’s so special about that one might ask … Well, back then Laura was just shy of her 14th birthday. “No way!” the authorities said, „She can’t do that“ was the public opinion not only in the Netherlands but also in the rest of the world. Finally, after eleven exhausting months of hearings in court, psychological investigations, investigations by experts, first-aid classes, security trainings and a solo sailing tour to Britain, Laura was allowed to put her plans into action. In early August Laura set off from Den Osse in the province of Zeeland, the Netherlands, and sailed to Portugal with her father [the author of this account was present when Laura threw loose the mooring lines]. By mid-August, a month before her 15th birthday, Laura set off from Gibraltar aboard her 12-meters sailing boat “Guppy” and started on her solo-circumnavigation - 518 days later after completing her trip around the globe, Laura reached the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten and as a 16 years and 123 days teen she became the youngest solo-circumnavigator. Since then Laura has settled in New Zealand, her country of birth.

But why is Laura giving a presentation here in this region that can’t seriously be labeled a sailor’s paradise? Laura’s answer is: “Well, Thomas Weber lives her and he followed me during my trip, and he came up with the idea to hold another presentation here, too. That’s how it happened."

Yes, that’s how it came to be, approximately. During Laura’s circumnavigation I, with another fan in Canada, were doing the English translations of Laura’s blog on her personal website, We also started a fanpage on Facebook “Zeilmeisje [Sailor girl] Laura Dekker” that is still very well-liked by Laura’s fans. We also took care of a few other things during Laura’s trip. After Laura’s circumnavigation was completed, we kept in touch with Laura and her family.

For late summer 2013 the German Delius Klasing publishing house had planned to bring Laura to Germany for the promotion of the German version of her book. This included appearances in various media, newspapers as well as television. In September I contacted the publishing house and asked about Laura’s appearances in the media so that we could keep the fans updated. By chance I had written to the spokesman who would join Laura while during her time in Germany. My proposal was received favorably and we were able to keep Laura’s fans updated with the latest news via Zeilmeisje on Facebook. Besides official appearances like on the ‘3nach9’ talk show of NDR (North German Broadcasting) or interviews with important daily newspapers Laura, as her father told me, intended to give several presentations about her trip in German.

Mid-September – an email from Holland

On September 12, I received an email from Laura’s father Dick Dekker who told me that Laura would like to give one or more presentations in Germany, preferably in the region of Cologne and Bonn. Those presentations however, would have to take place before October 10 since Laura would be leaving Europe to go back to New Zealand. Dick asked me whether I knew an association or a conference hall in the region for a presentation. Honestly, I was very much surprised by that request! Such an event would normally require planning for months and it would have to be done within weeks. And there was one more small thing: I did not know any club or association or conference hall that would host an event like that.

Very much clueless I called an acquaintance of mine, a sailor who also has contacts with local sailing clubs. He promised to ask around in the region of Siegen. On the next day we had to face the truth: Even though there was interest in Laura’s presentation, there was no one who wanted to take on the risk of a flop. But then I had an idea, the right one as it turned out later.

Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck

In the past weeks our local press had announced that the opening of an event hall in our village was imminent. Over time the hall, a former factory building built at the turn of the century, was modified into “Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck (Kabelmetal hall)”. A non-profit organization owns the hall in which the Windeck municipality has a participation.

The calendar of events showed empty dates for September and October, so an event involving Laura could be a possibility. To the mail I sent in which I proposed Laura’s presentation I sadly did not receive an answer. A phone call wasn’t possible since they had no phone line yet. No luck either with Windeck’s municipality where I was told that, of course, the person in charge was out of the office that day. Finally, I wrote to Mr. Orthaus, the spokesman of Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck. My mail was answered in just a few minutes and it was obvious that there was a strong interest on their part to my offer. In follow-up mails Mr. Orthaus asked about the details for the event such as honorarium for Laura, some costs to be paid by the owner of the hall, advertising. Eventually he promised to take care of it.

The days went by and on September 18 I was told by the Windeck municipality to contact Mr Schadel who is the event manager of the hall about this matter. Pretty much excited I called him and briefly shared my concerns. Yes, Mr. Orthaus had already had discussions about the event. No, there was to be no objections to this event because the financial risk and the effort (I: “A microphone and a projector is all Laura needs”) were minimal. However, at this moment Mr. Schadel said that he was very busy with the opening of the hall planning and that yes, I could already forward to the Dekkers that the event was going to happen. I could barely trust my ears and I needed approximately half an hour to get used to the idea: Laura would be on stage of the Bürgerkulturzentrum Windeck in about two weeks.

On the opening day, which coincidentally was also Laura’s 18th birthday, I visited the new Bürgerkulturzentrum. I immediately knew for sure that this hall, that had been renovated at great effort, was the perfect local for Laura’s presentation. Maybe I should mention that up to the late 1980s my father worked as a mechanical engineer for the very same company that had owned this hall originally.

Shortly before the official opening ceremony, I ran into Mr. Orthaus, who told me he was looking forward to the event with Laura. I learned that Mr Orthaus is a sailor, too! Could anyone be that incredibly lucky – I had found a brand new hall equipped with the latest state of the art technology and with a sailor for a spokesman? Obviously I had! Now all I could to do was to wait for Monday.

-To be continued-

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