2010 AG Awards Young Adventurer of the Year: Jessica Watson
ONE SATURDAY 15 MAY, Aussie Jessica Watson sailed through the heads of Sydney Harbour, and in doing so, became the youngest person ever to sail around the world solo and unassisted, at just 16 years old.
Her homecoming prompted celebrations with attendance levels to rival those of New Year’s Eve events. Several hours of live television broadcast allowed viewers across the country to follow the last moments of her epic adventure. She captured the nation’s heart and has become an Australian hero.
A determined young Queenslander, Jessica has lived on or near the sea most of her life, and has sailed dinghies from the age of eight. Inspired by the stories of Kay Cottee, the first female to sail solo around the world, and Jesse Martin, who set the record for the youngest solo sail in 1999, Jessica set her mind to becoming an experienced sailor. Before setting off on her solo circumnavigation, she completed survival and yachtsmaster courses and notched up more than 6000 nautical miles of ocean sailing experience.
Proving naysayers and pessimists wrong, Jessica left Sydney on 18 October 2009, spent 210 days alone at sea, arriving safely back to port just three days before her 17th birthday.
She sailed her vessel, Ella’s Pink Lady, across more than 20,000 nautical miles of ocean, including around Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, surviving knockdowns, 10-m high waves and winds of up to 70 knots.
Jess says she was a little gobsmacked to win the Australian Geographic Society Young Adventurer of the Year Award. “I’ve read about them and have been inspired by the previous ones, so to get the award myself is a bit surreal,” she says.
“I’m really really proud to receive this award. “It’s increadible and a bit surreal. It was a personal goal to sail around the world, and the one thing I wanted to say was that I was out there by myself but it wasn’t something I achieved by myself.”
Jessica was not here to collect the award, but her family accepted for her. Says mum Julie: “If you know how many collisions people have before they get to the start line, Jessia’s is nothing. People overcome such amazing things to get out there an be adventurer. It doesn’t come easy; you don’t just go out there and do it. You have to overcome amazing difficulties.”
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