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14-year-old Laura Dekker has Dutch court's -- and her mom's -- permission to sail around the world

Laura Dekker has convinced a Dutch court that she's done her sailing homework and is ready to attempt to beat Jessica Watson's record around-the-world solo sail. 

By Staff writer / July 27, 2010

Laura Dekker poses for the media on her boat Guppy in Den Osse, south-west Netherlands, Tuesday. A Dutch court has cleared the way for 14-year-old Laura Dekker to set sail on a risky solo voyage around the world.

Evert-Jan Daniels/AP

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Never underestimate the power of persuasion – especially when it comes from a child who knows her stuff. Laura Dekker is exhibit A.

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Before the dramatic record-breaking sail around the world of 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson and months before 16-year-old Abby Sunderland’s dramatic rescue, the then-13-year-old Dutch girl proved her determination to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

After both her mom and a court ruled against such an attempt when she was 14 years old, she ran… um, sailed away anyway. And she would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for a woman who recognized her three days after she disappeared on the Dutch Antilles island of St Maarten.

IN PICTURES: Sailing photos from around the world

Almost eight months later, the still 14-year-old Laura has won both her mother’s and the Dutch Court's permission to attempt the voyage and thereby possibly beat Jessica's record as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo.

The current official record is held by Mike Perham, who completed his round-the-world voyage last year when he was 17 years old. Since his accomplishment, record-keeping organizations have stopped recognizing "youngest" pursuits because of growing controversy.

Still, Jessica Watson completed the voyage in May and holds the (slightly contested) unofficial record.

Then there was 16-year-old Abby Sunderland from California whose attempt to snag the record was fraught with complications highlighting the risks of such solo voyages. After a wave snapped her mast in the southern Indian Ocean in June, she had to be rescued.

When her father was asked last year what he thought of his daughter being alone on the high seas at such a young age, Laurence Sunderland told the Los Angeles Times, "I wouldn't let her go at 13, or at 14, or at 15. There's a strength factor and they need to be mentally grounded in what this entails. It's not a frivolous thing. The ocean is terrifying and you have to be prepared for all the adversities that it throws at you."

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