MIDDELBURG, Netherlands — The new cushions, sunshade, and bright red sail are in place. And now 14-year-old Laura Dekker has the go-ahead she needs.
A Dutch court ruled Tuesday the girl who was born on a yacht in the South Pacific is ready to embark on her dream of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world — meaning she could set sail in two weeks in a ketch named Guppy.
"I was so happy I almost jumped into the water," the teen gushed, after hearing the court's decision.
She then hopped onto her red-hulled, twin-mast yacht with a cartoon fish painted on the side and did a celebratory circle for the assembled media in the still waters of the harbor where she lives with her father on a boat.
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The past year of legal wrangling and criticism of Laura and her family have been far from such clear sailing — and she faces more stormy waters when she sets off on her odyssey in her 38-foot yacht. The dramatic rescue just last month of American teen Abby Sunderland in the Indian Ocean is a reminder of the perils she will face.
"I'm not really afraid, everything is really prepared on my boat," the young Dutch sailor said of the prospect of encountering everything from towering waves to Somali pirates.
The risks the teen faces ignited a worldwide debate on how far parents should go in supporting or encouraging their children's dreams.
When Dutch child protection agencies got wind last year of the then 13-year-old's plan they went to court and had Laura placed under a guardianship order that meant she could not set sail.
Laura and her father worked to address a list of shortcomings.
On Tuesday, all the work paid off when Middelburg Family Court said there was no reason to extend the guardianship by another year.
Presiding Judge S. Kuypers said the responsibility for Laura "lies with her parents."
"It is up to them to decide whether Laura can set off on her sail trip," she said.