Saturday, May 15, 2010
Jessica Watson, a 16-year-old Australian, became the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted and alone when she arrived in Sydney Harbor earlier today.
Watson, from Buderim, Queensland, departed from Sydney October 18, last year. In 210 days, she traveled by herself for over 23,000 nautical miles on a 34-foot (10.4m) yacht, called Ella’s Pink Lady. Watson completed her journey days before her seventeenth birthday.
When Watson neared land, a large assortment of other watercraft began to parade alongside her yacht. She was greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who called her “Australia’s newest hero.” However, Watson disagreed with the comment, saying, “I don’t consider myself a hero.” Rudd also congratulated her with a free driving lesson and a copy of the Australian “Keys to Drive” program.
Prior to her voyage, Watson caught some criticism when she first announced her intention to sail solo around the world. Some thought that she was too young and too inexperienced to safely travel alone, but Watson’s mother stated that she had been sailing since she was eight years old.
Last week, it was questioned whether Watson had sailed far enough past the Equator to satisfy the requirements for achieving the record. Watson’s record is unofficial because the World Speed Sailing Record Council no longer has a category for the sailors under eighteen.
Jesse Martin, also Australian, held the previous record in 1999, when he was eighteen.