Laura Dekker, 14, Sets Off on Round-the-World Sail

A month after being released from the guardianship of child protection services, a 14-year-old Dutch girl today set sail from Gibraltar in an effort to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Laura Dekker was en route to the Canary Islands on her 38-foot boat, Guppy, after saying goodbye to her father and friends earlier today. She began her trip in secrecy because, according to her manager, Peter Klarenbeek, she did not want any attention.

Klarenbeek told The Associated Press that Dekker was in good spirits, and expected her round-the-world trip to take a year or more.

The Dutch child protection agency had attempted to block Dekker from making the trip, but a court released her from their oversight last month after she switched to a larger vessel and took courses in both first aid and dealing with sleep deprivation.

The court ruled that Dekker had completed enough training to prepare for the voyage, and that the decision should be up to the girl and her parents.

Marijke Schaaphok, director of Holland's MasMedia company, which has exclusive television rights to film Dekker's voyage, said the girl is unusually mature for her age. She also pointed out that Dekker passed a Dutch maritime exam for handling a 38-foot yacht.

Dekker grew up on a boat with her father and "is completely different from a normal 14-year-old girl." Schaaphok said.

"She's very wise and a little bit impatient, but she's a very nice girl and she knows exactly what she wants," Schaaphok added.

Earlier this year, Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old California girl, had tried to become the youngest person to sail solo nonstop around the world, but eventually had to give up the effort.

Problems with her vessel's autopilot forced her to head to port in South Africa, ending her hopes of going nonstop.

Then a storm in the Indian Ocean damaged her vessel and she had to give up her attempt altogether.

Unlike Sunderland, Dekker is not attempting to make the trip nonstop. She plans to make dozens of stops during the trip, and might even interrupt the sail to return to the Netherlands to keep up with her schooling.

The youngest person to sail solo around the world is currently Australian Jessica Watson, who was 16 when she completed an unassisted 210-day voyage earlier this year. Watson went around the globe nonstop.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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