16 yr. old sailor Jess completes trip
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|Fri, 05-14-2010 - 8:55am|
What an extraordinary feat for anyone especially a young woman. She proved to all those critics that said she was too young.
A day to go: Jess on the final stretch
Video & interactive map of route at link....
After seven months alone at sea, 16-year-old adventurer Jessica Watson is about to sail into a place in history this weekend.
She has battled raging storms, heavy seas and loneliness in her bid to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted.
And now the Queensland schoolgirl is inching closer to the finish line, sailing her way up the NSW coast aboard her yacht Ella's Pink Lady and preparing for a hero's welcome in Sydney tomorrow morning.
Tens of thousands of fans are expected to greet the adventurer after her 23,000 nautical mile (about 38,000km) odyssey, with Sydney planners putting her homecoming on the scale of New Year's Eve celebrations.
Watson's heroes and fellow round-the-world sailors, Perth's Jesse Martin and the UK's Mike Perham, will board Watson's boat after she crosses the finish line at Sydney Heads at about 11.30am (AEST).
The pair will take over the helm, allowing her to relax and enjoy the celebrations.
When she disembarks at Sydney Opera House she will be reunited with her relieved parents and greeted by a crowd of VIPs, expected to include Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, before being whisked away to navigate a press conference and individual media interviews.
The entire event will be broadcast live on national television.
The Seven Network has chartered a yacht and choppers to capture her "momentous arrival", while Network Ten has enlisted its leading lights to host two hours of live broadcasting of the homecoming.
After a weekend of celebrations, Watson can expect a future of fame and fortune.
Her manager Andrew Fraser is coy about the massive deals being offered to his client but admits he's astounded by the offers.
"It's a global interest. There's no doubt she's engaged the world," Mr Fraser told AAP.
"However, all we're focusing on at the moment is getting Jess back.
"Once we get her back on shore, then we'll sit down and work out all the opportunities."
Watson has captured the nation's attention with her heroics and a string of controversies.
She hit the headlines even before her trip began after she fell asleep and hit a bulk carrier during her first trial run - sailing from Queensland's Sunshine Coast to Sydney.
Critics argued that Watson, who celebrates her 17th birthday on May 18, was too young and inexperienced for such a formidable challenge.
Watson was embroiled in further controversy last week, with website Sail-world.com revealing she had not travelled far enough into the northern hemisphere to qualify for an official world record.
It also said she was too young to wrest the solo-sailing record from Martin, who was 18 when he completed his voyage in 1999.
But Watson's management hit back, saying they were well aware prior to her departure that the World Sailing Speed Record Council would not recognise the achievements of an under-18 sailor and Watson had never aimed for an official record.
Watson in her blog said she had a good giggle at the controversy.
"If I haven't been sailing around the world, then it beats me what I've been doing out here all this time," she wrote.
Technicalities aside, yachties say Watson's achievement deserves to be celebrated.
Australia's 1983 America's Cup winning skipper John Bertrand described her voyage as "a very gutsy effort".
Watson's management said people wouldn't realise the extreme conditions that she faced in circumnavigating the world solo in a 34-foot boat.
"She's a tiny girl. To achieve this adventure is quite extraordinary," Mr Fraser said.
"It represents the spirit of this country in many ways.
"It underlines what young people can achieve."
Now that Watson is so close to the finish line, her project manager Bruce Arms has set off from Sydney to sail by her side from about midnight on Thursday.
He will shadow Watson's ship, but will ensure he keeps a fair distance to allow her to complete her voyage unassisted.
Watson, who left on October 18 last year, wrote in her blog on Monday that she was a "little scared" about how her life will change when she arrives home.
"I'm told that things are going to change pretty majorly for me," she wrote.
"But I'm not worried because I know that if I can find a reason to laugh while surrounded by huge waves, in the dark and after a knockdown, then I'll be able to smile through whatever comes my way."
With only one sleep to go before she steps foot on land after 210 days at sea, Watson will soon discover what her new life entails - once she gets her land legs back.