|Jessica Watson will make a 23,600-mile journey through some of the world’s most treacherous waters. (Brendon Thorne/ Getty Images)|
Australian teen starts round-the-world sail bid
SYDNEY - A 16-year-old Australian steered her bright pink yacht out of Sydney Harbor yesterday to start her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world.
Jessica Watson’s plan to make a 23,600-mile journey through some of the world’s most treacherous waters sparked a debate in Australia about whether someone so young should be allowed to try such a potentially dangerous feat.
Watson and her family insist that she is an experienced and capable sailor who has studied navigation, electronics, and maritime safety procedures. Although she will sail solo and unassisted, she will be in constant contact with her support team via radio, e-mail, and a blog.
The teenager did not speak with reporters before she left, and her mother updated the Internet diary yesterday.
“I know you are all anxious to hear from Jess, but she’s a little preoccupied on her first day, so she asked me to post a quick note to let everyone know that the departure went well this morning,’’ Julie Watson wrote on the blog.
“I would like to sincerely thank all those wonderful people who came out on the harbor this morning and down to the marina to wish Jess well,’’ she posted hours after giving her daughter a tearful hug and saying goodbye.
Jessica Watson sailed her pink, 34-foot yacht out of Sydney under gray skies and slightly choppy conditions. She smiled and waved to scores of well-wishers on land and in boats that had gathered on the harbor.
Her plans had several setbacks before she left. Last month, her yacht collided with a cargo ship as she sailed toward Sydney to make final preparations - an accident that triggered some calls for her to abandon the attempt.
More recently, strong winds in Sydney delayed her planned departure last week.
The first leg of Watson’s journey will take her past northern New Zealand, then Fiji and Samoa. In a trip expected to last about eight months, she plans to pass around the southern tips of Africa and South America.
Andrew Fraser, a spokesman for Watson’s team, said she was relieved and upbeat to be getting under way. He dodged questions about whether the trip was too dangerous for someone so young. “Let’s have this conversation in eight months,’’ he told reporters.
Briton Mike Perham, 17, in August laid claim to being the youngest solo round-the-world sailor after completing a 28,000-mile trip in nine months, though he stopped for repairs, which counts as an “assisted’’ trip.