Today it was announced that Dutch authorities have taken into care a thirteen-year-old girl who wants to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world. What business is it of social services (or the Dutch equivalent)? I don’t condone parents sending children off to take part in dangerous activities, to live their own dreams through their children, but if the child has the necessary skills then why shouldn’t they attempt something like this?
If a thirteen-year-old is able to achieve this, what a wonderful thing it would be to have done. Anyone who has the necessary skills to achieve this feat can only go on to great things. The self-reliance, the resourcefulness, the courage and the stamina. We should be encouraging these attributes wherever they are found, not wrapping those who show them in cotton-wool to protect them from themselves.
If this child is living in a world of fantasy then it should be obvious to anyone with some sailing experience whether the child has the necessary skills and ability. Mental health professionals will know by interviewing her whether she has the mental strength to attempt a challenge such as this. If she has neither the technical nor mental strength to attempt this then she obviously shouldn’t do it. But if she does have what it takes then let her do it. I’m sure it would be the making of her, as it has been for the few who have gone before.
The risks are a lot less these days than when Sir Robin was the first to do this. Satellites give near pinpoint accuracy of the boats or sailors location, it’s not impossible for her to be shadowed by another boat with support services aboard, who could pluck her to safety should that be needed. It isn’t as if she will be out of contact for months on end with no-one having any idea if she is even still alive. With communications as they are it’s quite possible for there to be minute by minute communication, even a video link. Experts could talk her through problems with boat systems, help with navigation, give weather reports. I admit that this is still a huge challenge, and it is certainly beyond my ability, but don’t deny someone the chance to do this based on some arbitrary age limit which doesn’t take into account a persons ability, mental strength, or maturity.
Let her go!