Aussie teenager Jessica Watson will set sail from Sydney on Sunday, 18 October in an attempt to be the youngest person to achieve a solo world circumnavigation. Thousands of well-wishers are expected to crowd Sydney Harbour and its foreshore to cheer Jessica as she sails out through Sydney Heads at 9.30am (AEDT) in her yacht Ella’s Pink Lady. Strong winds have battered Sydney in recent days causing a further delay to her departure, but Jess now has the go-ahead from her team’s meteorologist.
Jessica’s route and the rules for her voyage are noted on her Web site.
Since writing my previous article – Jessica Watson – Aussie Girl to Sail Solo Around the World – some pertinent facts have come to my attention. So much was made in the press recently about Jessica’s attempt to break the record of fellow Australian Jesse Martin. This turned out to be incorrect reporting. The truth is that Jesse Martin was never the youngest person to sail solo around the world. That honor, at the time, belonged to David Dicks OAM from Western Australia, who achieved the record on 17 November 1996 (Recorded Age: 18 years, 41 days). Jesse Martin has not corrected the inaccuracy reported many times in the press over the years since his voyage. Even so, his feat was remarkable for a young man then aged only 18 years and 66 days.
It was almost 13 years before the record set by David Dicks was broken by American Zac Sunderland on 16 July 2009 (Recorded age: 17 years, 230 days). Just over a month later, UK sailor, Mike Perham broke Sunderland’s record on 27 August 2009 (Recorded Age: 17 years, 164 days).
It is interesting to note that each of the records set since 1970 were in yachts of varying sizes:
Robin Lee Graham (USA) – Yacht – Dove (24ft)/Return of Dove (33ft) – set the record on 30 April 1970 (Recorded Age: 21 years, 56 days)
Brian (BJ) Caldwell (USA) – Yacht – 26ft sloop – broke Graham’s record on 20 September 1996 (Recorded Age: 20 years)
David Dicks (AUS)- Yacht – Seaflight (34ft)
Zac Sunderland (USA)- Yacht – Intrepid (36ft)
Mike Perham (UK) –Yacht – totallymoney.com (50ft)
These records show a wide variation in yacht size, and in the case of Robin Lee Graham, he used two vessels to achieve his record (Dove and Return of Dove) due to damage to his first vessel. However, the size of the determination and courage of each of these intrepid sailors cannot be measured.
Jessica Watson must surely be buoyed by the comments of her knockers. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to know that the type of criticism Jess has had to endure since her “freighter incident” would be a boost to her mental preparation. This courageous young woman is not attempting this feat because she is a “silly little girl with an unrealistic dream”. She is obviously a mentally tough, technically competent and fiercely determined person with a worthwhile goal in life.
Jessica has gone quietly about her preparation in the midst of criticism and speculation in a dignified way. Why would she want to let the thoughts and words of pessimistic strangers affect the lead-up to her departure?
None of the men who became the youngest solo circumnavigators would have done so without incidents, serious or otherwise. What they did was to demonstrate courage, determination and the ability to achieve their goals. Only they would know exactly how Jessica is feeling right now and how she will feel when she returns home triumphant.
If Jessica can complete her solo circumnavigation before she reaches the age of 17on 18 May 2010, it will indeed be an amazing accomplishment. To be fair to Jessica, she has until age 17 years and 163 days to break Mike Perham’s record.
I am sure I am not the only person who wishes Jessica safe sailing on the remarkable journey that will take her around the world and back to Sydney in record breaking time.
David Dicks OAM