Monday, 25 January 2010

Jessica Watson reaches halfway mark after three months of sailing

Teenager on non-stop 23,000 mile solo trip around the world

pic courtesy the razor, Australia

Jessica Watson rounded the tip of Cape Horn last Thursday as her parents Roger and Julie circled overhead in an airplane; they had flown down especially from Australia to have a look at their teenage daughter who is halfway through her world solo sail bid. Sixteen year old Jessica plans to be the youngest person ever to sail across the world alone and unaided.

The 16 year old was buzzed earlier by a British RAF Typhoon fighter near the coast of the Falkland Islands; an event that gave her "quite a fright" over her breakfast. The first half of Jessica’s 23,000 nautical mile odyssey has taken her to a region known well for treacherous high waves, gale force winds, strong currents and icebergs: ‘The Everest of ocean sailing’, some say.

Jessica’s voyage almost never began; she was heavily criticised when, two weeks before sailing, she hit a bulk carrier on a trial run off Stradbroke Island, Australia. An inquiry was conducted, and there were accusations that, amongst other things, Jessica may have ignored safety procedures and was asleep when the incident occurred. Many said she was too young to undertake such a perilous journey, and that the authorities should intervene to abort her voyage.

All that seems to be history. On board her 10-metre sloop ‘Ella's Pink Lady’, Jessica is thrilled today. She has been sailing along for three months now, having left Sydney on October 18, and says, “It's great to have come this far with so few signs of wear and tear. With Cape Horn being the subject of all my attention for so long, it's strange now to refocus and start thinking ahead to the rest of the voyage and the other milestones along the way. Even though it's all been very exciting and a total novelty, I am also glad to again be clear of land and the shipping that comes with it. It's nice to be able to settle back into some sort of vague attempt at a routine and to be able to sleep better knowing that it's just Ella's Pink Lady and I again."

Jessica is now headed for the Cape of Good Hope, and intends to be back home in Australia before her 17th birthday, a feat that which would make her the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world unaided. After months of rough seas and tough sailing, she hopes to get better weather on this leg. "As the voyage is nonstop I won't be pulling into port, so calmer seas and refuge behind land will feel like a holiday,'' she says.


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