Teenage sailer Jessica Watson is alone on the Pacific Ocean after launching her attempt to sail solo around the world. The 16-year-old slept in her yacht last night to acclimatise and sailed out of Sydney Harbour this morning after an emotional farewell to family. A siren signalled the official start of Ms Watson’s journey, but the teenager’s yacht sat for some minutes waiting for a gust of wind to send her off. She eventually made her way through choppy waves at the mouth of the harbour and out into open ocean, but not before she radioed Harbour Control to say she was underway. The voice at the other end wished her well, saying: “See you in eight months.” Dozens of spectators watched from the harbour foreshore and the pink yacht was surrounded by up to 50 kayakers and boats filled with supporters and media.
Ms Watson is trying to break Jesse Martin’s record as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe nonstop and unassisted. Her record-breaking attempt has fuelled debate over whether someone so young should be allowed to make the solo voyage. Ms Watson has faced several disruptions as she prepared for her voyage. Last month her yacht collided with a cargo ship off southern Queensland, and last weekend one of her mentors, Andrew Short, was killed in a yachting accident. Ms Watson’s support team says the teenager’s location will always be known through GPS tracking on her clothing. Jessica’s mother, Julie, says she will be in contact with her daughter twice a day. “She’s had a fair bit to do over the last couple of weeks down here in Sydney, but nothing new came up so we said… this is the day,” Julie Watson said.
Meanwhile, adventurer James Castrission, who made history by kayaking across the Tasman Sea, was giving last-minute advice to the teenager. He says it was a nervous departure for Ms Watson. “It was quite tense,” he said. “Always with these things, everyone’s feeling a little bit edgy, [worrying about] what’s going to happen out there, but she’s done the work and she’s ready to go.” Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told Channel Nine that a lot of Australians are nervous for the young sailor. “If there is one message, it would be keep safe – do everything she needs to do to keep safe,” Ms Gillard said. “If that means that at some point she has got to abandon the journey, then the most important thing here is a young person’s life.” (Source: ABC News/Photo: Steve Holland)