Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson

Story by David Rutter

A measure of our determination is how far we take our dreams. Inspiration and passion is one thing, but acting is another. Jessica Watson’s goal of becoming the youngest person, male or female, to circumnavigate the globe is testament to the power of acting on your dreams, and she hopes to inspire other young Australian women to act on their dreams too.

The Outdoor Type caught up with Jessica shortly after announcing her bid to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe.

Jessica, who just celebrated her sixteenth birthday, recalls her mum reading to her from Jesse Martin’s book “Lionheart” when she was 11. The story provided the inspiration for her endeavour, and yet while she has long had plans to sail around the globe, she found that the scariest part was actually telling people of her dream. Her mother continues to provide her great support in her dreaming, planning, and undoubtedly will continue to do so during her voyage.

Jessica’s goal is to become the youngest person to sail solo non-stop and unassisted around the world. To achieve this, she must cross all meridians of longitude, and cross the equator. She will travel approximately 23,000 nautical miles. Her voyage will take her from Brisbane, through the Pacific to cross the equator (as required by the rules), around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, across the Southern Ocean, and then round the cape of Tasmania and up the east coast of Australia to return to Brisbane.

It might be hard to imagine, but Jessica admits that as a younger child she was scared of many things in the outdoors – climbing trees, getting her feet wet. Her family was always camping, and playing in their big backyard, and enjoying the outdoors. Her focus now is on the ocean. She enjoys the independence of solo sailing, and the focus and responsibility of being able to make her own decisions. What does she dislike about being out at sea? “Getting cold, wet and miserable”, Jessica says.

Jessica's Yacht
The hardest part was getting started, admits Jessica. Once she’d gotten over her apprehension of telling people about her dream, and found the right people to talk to, the plans for the voyage started coming together. The biggest milestone so far has been getting the boat – a Sparkman and Stephens “S&S 34” 10.4m sloop, which was donated by experienced Australian adventurer Don McIntyre. Jessica has named the yacht YOUNGESTROUND.COM.

Jessica says that adjusting to seasickness during the first week, and settling in to being at sea during the first month will be her major challenges. She will also need to be able to maintain the boat while at sea – and will be learning about the vessel down to the smallest detail over the 8 weeks as it is pulled apart and reconstructed to ensure everything is in the best condition for the voyage.

Despite her extraordinary dream, Jessica points out that she is “no one special”, and advises other people with big dreams to follow them – “you can always find a way to achieve them”.

Update 28/09/2009

Much has happened since our interview with Jessica Watson. Jessica secured a major sponsor (Ella Bache), renamed her boat from youngestround.com to Ella’s Pink Lady, and has attracted media attention both here in Australia and around the globe. Much of the recent media attention occurred following the collision of her yacht with a bulk carrier off the east coast of Australia as Jessica was sailing from Mooloolaba in Queensland to Sydney, ahead of her planned departure in September.

Jessica came through the incident unscathed and in good spirits; however her boat is undergoing repairs. She is determined to continue with her quest, saying that the incident has only made her more determined. The repairs to Ella’s Pink Lady are expected to be completed soon – following the repairs Jessica will complete sea trials before heading down to Sydney to start her journey around the world.
Images courtesy of Jessica Watson

About David Rutter

Dave grew up on a small acreage on the outskirts of Sydney, within a stone's throw of the bush. Having spent a large part of his childhood exploring the bush behind the family home, much of his adult life has been spent exploring the world - he has lived in Sweden, traveled much of Europe, travelled in the Pacific and South America, and more recently in Asia. The Australian bush is however, the place where he feels he truly belongs.
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