April 13, 2010

Solo Sailor Girl Sails Into History

UPDATE MAY 15:  SYDNEY  – Australian schoolgirl sailor Jessica Watson sailed into history Saturday  (May 15) as a noisy pink-bathed crowd welcomed her home as the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, non-stop and without help, AFP reported.
Tens of thousands of people took to the harbour and lined the foreshore to celebrate as Watson, 16, crossed the finish line in her bright pink yacht, ending a remarkable 210 days at sea. 

Teen sailor Jessica in home stretch

Australian teen adventurer Jessica Watson is coming into the home stretch in her 34-ft yacht Ella's Pink Lady with a new record waiting for her as the youngest person to sail around the world, nonstop and unassisted.

The plucky teenager will be heading towards Sydney Harbour, expected to be on May 2, weather permitting, to a hero's welcome. She will be celebrating her 17th birthday on May 18.

If Jessica succeeds she will take the title from fellow Australian Jesse Martin, who was 18 in 1999,  when he girdled the globe on his own and without stopping or getting help.

An April 13 posting on the sponsored Jessica Watson website by Amanda Lulham of the Daily Telegraph says Jessica on Monday had passed the 20,000 nautical miles of sailing on her own - another extraordinary milestone for the teenager.

The Ella's Pink Lady was reported entering Australian waters over the weekend. Jessica's parents, brother and sister flew overhead in a small plane to greet her, according to her April 12 posting on her official blog.

"Even though all I could see was a small plane way overhead, it was still really cool. Mum reckons that Ella's Pink Lady and I looked really small between the swell, which seems strange to me because Ella's Pink Lady is my whole world at the moment!" she says.

Jessica also mentioned an electrical storm the "worst I've seen at sea yet".

She says: "Even though I could hardly see it through the icy cold sideways rain, the lightning was striking the water nearby much too close for my liking. The wind gusted pretty high too.

"Other than the lightning storm, the weather's still been really unsettled with almost constant rain, squalls and a messy sea. Luckily the wind hasn't been too strong though. Progress has been good and even with all this gloomy grey stuff, I'm happy as Larry and mostly staying dry, thanks to my snug dodger," says Jessica.

Earlier on Saturday, Ella's Pink Lady sailed over the green line on the chart and into Australian waters, according to a post on April 10.

"But we've still got a long way to go and over the next week we will pass under the Great Australian Bight and head south to Tasmania," says the post.

"It's very likely that I'll pass back over the green line out of Australian waters again. It's weird being so close, but still having so many miles to cover."

Jessica explains that she didn't take a short cut through the Bass Strait but instead went south of Tasmania because the Strait is full of shipping and islands which would mean a few days with very little or no sleep for her.

Watson's parents were criticized for allowing her to make the journey on her own. Critics were concerned that any ocean rescue operation would cost thousands of dollars and place her life in jeopardy.

However, Jessica eventually silenced most of the critics after a test run to New Zealand and several solo journeys in Australia proved she's capable of doing the job. She has been sailing since she was eight.

Jessica started her long journey from Sydney. She sailed towards the equator in the mid-Pacific Ocean, went under South America, then across the south Atlantic Ocean to the southern tip of South Africa and east across the Indian Ocean towards home.

Meanwhile, Earth Times reported that Jessica might not hold on to her title for long if she wins it because Abby Sunderland, a US citizen four months her junior, left Mexico in February in pursuit of Martin's record.

Abby is the latest scion of the Sunderland family to set out around the world. She became the youngest person to sail single-handed round Cape Horn on the tip of South America last month. Her brother Zac made the trip when he was 17.

[Photos via YouTube]

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