Jessica Watson - Sails Solo Around the World at 16

Ben Kross // 05.19.10

Few events can bring Australians out in such huge numbers to Sydney Harbour. On Saturday (May 15, 2010) a flotilla of yachts and cruisers launched out into the harbour as huge crowds gathered at picnic spots along the foreshores on a perfect sailing day to catch a glimpse of something rare and perhaps just a little dangerous.

Jessica Watson is a very determined, 16 year old around the world yachtswoman and record breaker. The previous title was held by friend Jesse Martin who met with Jessica to compare notes after initial media rounds.

Since the age of 14 Jessica had methodically set out to reach her goal of sailing unassisted around the world. She spent much time at the Mooloolaba Marina in S East Queensland, finding out everything she would need to know. Finally with enough assistance from her family and the Marina, she was poised for the adventure.

Seven months later, she returned to Sydney harbour to the sight of a throng of boats of all sizes greeting her. Her next task is to begin dealing with being back on Terra firma.

At her website she wrote that she was inspired by Joshua Slocum who sailed around the world unassisted in the 1890's and considers the voyage as the "Everest of sailing". She also stated she was inspired by fellow Australian Jesse Martin's book about his experience beating the record a few years earlier when he was 17 years old.

In a twist however, the international recognition of the record oddly remains with Martin. This is because there is apparently now an official limit of the age of 18 in order to be illegible to attempt the record of youngest solo sailor.

You can assume this is of course for fear of ever younger people putting themselves at risk but it also makes the record one of the more bizarre records now. At least for the time-being, Jessica Watson must make do with being the unofficial record holder.

It is heartening to see young people attempting to reach their full potential. Jessica really personifies the casual Oz attitude well. She may be a youngster but she's grown up enough to take all her critics on and simply keep to her dreams. In this case she won the plaudits of many of her earlier critics.

Jessica herself modestly handled the acclaim by saying "I'm not a hero", as she was described by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. She achieved a remarkable place in history and did so all within her powers which is awe inspiring to countless people watching on. And really, sometimes that's all it takes to be a hero.

Ben Kross

For more information on Jessica Watson and her round the world journey, visit her blog at 

For more information on writer Ben Kross click here.