Girl, 16, to sail solo around the world

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson of Australia plans to sail solo around the world
A 16 year-old Australian schoolgirl is hoping to achieve a sailing feat that is so tough it has brought many experienced men and women to the brink of death.

Jessica Watson, of Mooloolaba, Queensland, plans to set out on a solo round-the-world sailing mission in November — and hopes to become the youngest person to ever sail non-stop around the world alone. But with the impending weeks of solitary confinement, freeze-dried foods, changing conditions and threat of injury, illness or death — why would she want to do it Watson told CNN her inspiration had come from fellow Australian Kay Cottee, who became the first woman to sail the globe alone, without stopping; and German-born Australian Jesse Martin, who still holds the record as the youngest person to do it. Martin achieved his feat in 1999 aged 18 (at the finish), and subsequently wrote a book titled “Lionheart: A Journey of the Human Spirit.” “I read Jesse’s book and that was inspiring. If you had to put it down to one thing that encouraged me to do this that would be a good one,” Watson said. Since deciding she wanted to take on what she describes as the “Everest of the ocean” about four years ago, Watson has been doing all she can to gain the best preparation for the adventure. She has already sailed “mock solo” across the Tasman Sea, which flows between Australia and New Zealand, at 15 and has been sailing since she was 8 years-old. “I’ve been talking to people [who have done it] about it all, and I’ll get in some good solo miles before I go,” she said.

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Despite the experience she has gained, Watson admits there are some aspects of the journey that remain unknown. “There are definitely things I’m nervous about — like the big waves and gear failure. But, it’s amazing the detail of preparation we can get and what you can do with technology. “Though, there’s no telling how you’ll handle yourself when you’re out there for eight months until you’re actually out there.” Watson’s journey around the globe is part of what seems to be an increasingly popular trend among young sailors. Seventeen year-old Briton, Mike Perham is currently part-way through his attempt to sail the world solo for charity. Perham is at present stuck in Tasmania, Australia, with gear problems and faces the daunting task of sailing around Cape Horn during the winter season. Still, he has come a long way when many people had raised concerns about the voyage before he departed.

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Jessica Watson’s Web site

Mike Perham’s page

Zac Sunderland’s page

On his daily blog, Perham writes about the challenges of being at sea alone, “The first few days at sea are always the worst — the lack of sleep leaves me feeling drained all the time but I know I just need to keep pushing on, knowing that I’ll soon acclimatize and that things are going to get better and better.” Another teenager — 16 year-old Zac Sunderland, who is from California — is also on a mission to become the youngest sailor to achieve the feat. Sunderland has also progressed from his departure point in California, through the Panama Canal, and into the Atlantic Ocean. For Perham, Sunderland and Watson it was the high level of communications technology at the teenagers disposal as they sail that has convinced their parents to allow them to attempt their journeys. Would you allow your teenage daughter or son to sail solo around the world Tell us below in the SoundOff box On Sunderland’s Web site his father, Laurence, said, “Although Zac is alone as he sails, he really has so much help. There will always be people who will disagree with our decision to let Zac go on this trip. It was his idea and it is his desire to continue.” Watson said her parents had also been supportive from the outset. For the young sailor, the next big challenge is preparing the boat for departure and securing a final sponsor to help fund the journey. She said her life is primarily geared towards the challenge this year. “It might take a little bit longer to finish school … this puts everything else on hold.”