PORTIMAO, Portugal — A 14-year-old Dutch girl will set off today on a controversial attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, her representatives said.
Laura Dekker's ambition of completing the yearlong trip has fueled a global debate over the wisdom of allowing young sailors to take on the tremendous risks of sailing the high seas alone.
The girl who grew up on a sailboat faces a host of challenges — including favorable winds to send her across the Atlantic Ocean from her jumping-off point in a marina in the resort city of Portimao at the southwestern tip of Portugal.
Late Friday, seas were so calm that the ocean looked like a mirror, and Laura was still out in her boat, performing last-minute tests on her red-hulled 38-foot yacht named "Guppy."
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Hordes of television crews, reporters and photographers from around the world descended on Portimao on Friday to cover the departure. They gave up on their stakeout after her yacht did not return to port after dark.
Marijke Schaaphok, the director of Masmedia, a company filming the trip with cameras mounted on Laura's boat, told the Associated Press that, "She has her father and her manager on board and as long as they are on board there's not an official start."