Caryn Dolley

A DUTCH teenager, attempting to become the youngest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, arrived in Cape Town in winds gusting at up to 50 knots and rough seas that deterred even seasoned skippers.

Yesterday, day 463 of her odyssey, Laura Dekker, 16, spoke from the V&A Waterfront where she was briefly docked. She described sailing in the stormy weather as “being on a rollercoaster that’s underwater”.

Local businessman Alon Kowen, a seasoned skipper who sailed to welcome Laura at sea and met her off Llandudno, said the weather had been awful.

“Not even the most seasoned skipper will round Cape Point in winds like that. She’s a very brave girl,” he said.

Laura, who had been sailing from Port Elizabeth for three days, rounded Cape Point shortly after midnight in winds of up to 50 knots.

She was soaked through, with waves continually crashing over her 38-foot yacht, Guppy. She arrived in Cape Town Harbour hours later and docked at the Waterfront around 9am.

“One of the first things I’m going to do is clean up my boat. It looks like a house hit by an earthquake, but with lots of water,” she said.

Laura was 14 when she set out on her solo voyage, something she said she had longed to do, from Gibraltar on August 21 last year.

So far the seafaring schoolgirl has needed no rescuing.

“I’m doing this for myself. At first, I had moments when I thought: ‘What am I doing here?’ But now it’s okay.

“I don’t really get lonely. I’ve got radio contact … At times it’s confining because it’s a small yacht and after three weeks, you really want to run.”

One of the more gruelling passages of the journey was from Darwin in Australia to Durban – a voyage that took 47 days at sea.

Laura said that, during the voyage, she had seen sharks,

whales and dolphins around her yacht.

“Down here, I saw some whales. One time, I had two sharks passing right behind the boat. I mostly see the fins. I’m not scared. It’s not like I’m planning to jump over,” Laura joked.

Now that she was back on land, she longs to eat fresh vegetables and food as she does not have a refrigerator on her yacht.

She has been eating mostly spaghetti and rice.

“I also want fresh water. I don’t have a lot on the yacht and I don’t waste it on showering … After the first wave hits, I get really salty. In the beginning, it was so itchy.”

The schoolgirl has school books on board so she can keep up to date with her studies.

The schooling issue and her age initially led Dutch authorities to try to prevent her from undertaking the solo voyage, but a Dutch court eventually permitted her to do so.

Laura said she wanted to do the voyage while she was young and agile, and could fully enjoy it.

Yesterday, her father, Dick Dekker, also a sailor and from a family of seafarers, was in Cape Town to see his daughter for the second time during her epic voyage.

“She’s doing it all on her own. I’m so proud, but also a bit scared,” he said.

Laura was not sure how long she would remain in Cape Town before setting off for the Caribbean.

She was expected to finish her voyage within months.

She said that after this odyssey, she hoped to sail around the world again, spending more time at each destination.

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