Australia – Saturday, 15 May 2010
Jessica Watson – home safe after epic 210 day world solo sailing circumnavigation
Jessica Watson is Australia’s newest hero. She arrived in Sydney Harbour this afternoon to a hero’s welcome. This unassuming teenager has achieved her dream – to sail solo and unassisted around the world as a sixteen year old. She will be 17 next Tuesday. What an outstanding achievement!
At approximately 1.55 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, intrepid Sunshine Coast sailor passed through the North and South Heads of Sydney Harbour (the official finish line) in her yacht Ella’s Pink Lady to an astonishing welcome. Hundreds of boats were out on the water and about 100,000 people took up vantage points around the harbour foreshore to witness history being made by this courageous 16 year old. More than 5,000 people crammed into the area around the Sydney Opera House steps waiting to catch a glimpse of Jessica as she stepped onto land for the first time in 210 days.
Jessica was approximately two and a half hours late because of rough seas and strong winds coming in towards the heads. She kept both the Prime Minister of Australia (Kevin Rudd) and the Premier of New South Wales (Christina Keneally) waiting and offered a simple “sorry” when she finally arrived. As she stepped ashore, she had hugs all around from her parents, Roger and Julie Watson and her three siblings Emily, Tom and Hannah. Jessica was clearly overwhelmed to be back on land, but soon regained her composure for the official ceremony. After speeches by the Prime Minister and the Premier, Jessica had an opportunity to thank her project team and the public for their support. She also stressed to the crowds that she dose not see herself to be a “hero” – just an ordinary girl who had a dream and worked hard to achieve that dream.
Many people who opposed such a young girl sailing off around the world on her own have now done a back-flip and are saying that Jessica is a role model for the youth of Australia who should adopt her “can do” attitude.
Off to a bad start but determined to take on the challenge
This amazing young girl did what she set out to do in spite of a false start when, on 9 September 2009, her yacht collided with a 63,000-tonne cargo vessel off North Stradbroke Island, Queensland. Her yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady, sustained a broken mast and some damage to the prow. A group of Gold Coast boat repairers quickly clubbed together to effect a rushed $50,000 repair job on Jessica’s craft and she continued on to Sydney in readiness for the commencement of her challenge. Jessica set sail from Sydney on 18 October 2009.
At this point in time there was speculation and criticism of her parents Roger and Julie Watson for letting such a young girl set off on such a dangerous voyage. But behind the scenes, Jessica had done an enormous amount of preparation and she had a support team of experts to offer guidance when required.
The upshot is that Jessica Watson has done what she set out to do and has come home safely to her family and friends. All Australians should be justly proud of this wonderful girl.
Former youngest solo circumnavigators on Nine Network commentary team
Australia’s Nine Network TV coverage included commentary from several former youngest solo sailing circumnavigators. Today Show hosts Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic were joined by David Dicks OAM (who completed his solo circumnavigation out of Perth, Western Australia in 1996 aged 18 years and 41 days) and veteran racing sailor Grant Wharington who has competed in many Sydney to Hobart Yacht races and many other international sailing events. Both these gentlemen provide an excellent insight into some of the situations Jessica would have encountered during her voyage.
After Jessica entered the harbour and received Customs and Immigration clearance, outgoing record holder Mike Perham from the UK (August 2009 – 17 years, 164 days) and Australian former young solo circumnavigator Jesse Martin (1999 – 18 years and 66 days) went on board to assist with steering Ella’s Pink Lady in to the reception area at the Sydney Opera House steps.
Jessica’s first on-shore challenge and humble requests
One thing Jessica wants to do very soon is to get her Learner’s Permit and work towards getting her driver’s licence. A modest ambition for one who has just performed an amazing feat on the high seas. She also wants to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, salads and a big slice of Pavlova (an Aussie dessert made from baked egg whites topped with fresh cream and tropical fruits). She also wants to have her hair washed and styled. She will spend time with family and friends to celebrate her achievement and then there will be media commitments. Work must continue on her book which is due at the printer in mid-June. Somewhere in the future she has to finish high school.
Young Australian of the Year nomination certain
Every year in Australia, awards are given to people who show outstanding ability and/or community spirit. It is an absolute certainty that Jessica Watson will be nominated and should win Young Australian of the Year for 2010.
The Media circus begins tomorrow with her first interview on Australia’s 60 Minutes
Jessica will be interviewed on 60 Minutes tomorrow night by presenter Charles Wooley. This will be a must-watch program for all those who have followed Jessica’s voyage and for anyone who wants to see just how humble Jessica Watson is. She is a credit to herself, her family and to her country.
No doubt there will be street parades and other official functions for Jessica to attend before her life settles down. There are assumptions that Jessica could earn $1 million + from media opportunities. Well – good on her if she does. She deserves everything that comes her way in the future. She is a truly amazing young Australian.
Read my other articles about Jessica Watson:
Jessica Watson – Aussie Girl to sail Solo around the World
Jessica Watson to set sail on Sunday, 18 October 2009
Australia’s Nine Network television coverage of the event
Personal observations and opinion
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