Netflix’s ‘True Spirit‘ follows the challenging 210-day journey that Australian sailor Jessica Watson undertook from October 2009 to May 2010. At 16, she became one of the youngest to complete a solo global circumnavigation without assistance, covering approximately 23,000 nautical miles. However, readers might be interested to know that Jessica is not the only one who has conquered the waves. Dutch sailor Laura Dekker also circled the world alone on her two-mast sailboat, at about the same age as her Australian peer.
Interestingly, Laura’s life began at sea, as she was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, in September 1995, during her parents’ sailing trip. She spent the first five years of her life on the water and went to live with her father in the Netherlands after her parents separated in 2001. For the next few years, Laura assisted her father and mastered sailing for short distances before completing a solo round trip to England in 2009. That year, the 13-year-old announced her plans for solo global circumnavigation.
Sadly, Laura faced severe opposition from government authorities, given the risks involved and her parents sharing her joint custody. Once the legal agreement ended in 2010, she set out to sail the world in August 2010 at 14. When Laura returned in January 2012, she inspired many young sailors globally. Now, if you’re interested to know what she has been up to nowadays, we have your back!
Where is Laura Dekker Today?
After completing her solo global circumnavigation between August 2010 and January 2012, Laura Dekker became the youngest to sail the world alone. Sixteen, when she returned home, the Dutch sailor was honored with numerous prestigious awards for her incredible achievement. This includes the Challenger of the Year Award by Faust A.G. in 2012, the AYS Speakers Program in 2012 by the American Yacht Club, and the 2013 Award of Merit by the Ocean Cruising Club in Whangarei, New Zealand.
In 2011, Laura was nominated for the esteemed Conny van Rietschoten Prize, the highest honor for Dutch sailors. In February 2015, she also became the youngest person to obtain the Yachtmaster Ocean 200gt Certificate. After her first global voyage, Laura circumnavigated the world one and a half times again before setting up base in her birthplace Whangarei, New Zealand. She gained experience working as a Marine Technician and occasionally partnered with high schools in outdoor education programs.
Since Laura loves mingling with young minds and teaching them about sailing, she decided to continue working in the education field and co-founded the Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation in 2018. The organization provides programs for students to develop teamwork, self-confidence, responsibility, creativity, and leadership skills. Not just that, participants get a chance to live with Laura aboard her sailboat and learn the intricacies of life at sea.
In 2018, the sailor loaned Guppy, the boat she used for her circumnavigation expedition, to a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization named LifeSail. Unfortunately, the vessel was wrecked during its trip to California, and Laura claimed compensation for the damages. Eventually, she acquired a new sailboat named Guppy XL, which she uses to train students today. Apart from sailing events, Laura appeared in the acclaimed 2013 documentary ‘Maidentrip, directed by Jillian Schlesinger; it chronicles her circumnavigation experiences.
Furthermore, Laura participated in the expedition-based Dutch reality series, ‘Atlas’ and ‘Expeditie Poolcirkel,’ securing first position in the latter. Apart from this, she has authored the 2014 novel ‘One Girl, One Dream,’ her autobiography, which details the trials and tribulations she faced to make her sailing dream come true. On the personal front, Laura tied the knot with a fellow New Zealander, Daniel Thielmann, in 2015, but they parted ways later due to irreconcilable differences.
The sailor and educator then began dating Sander Vogelenzang, a talented boat builder with a sailing background similar to hers. He is the co-founder of the Laura Dekker World Sailing Foundation, and together they travel around the world conducting outdoor education workshops for kids. The couple has two sons together, including their eldest child, Tim, who is a budding young sailor. Laura aims to impart valuable knowledge and life skills to children worldwide through her organization. Besides, she has kept her passion for sailing alive and spends much of her time on the open waters.
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