Inspired by both Kay Cottee and Jesse Martin, Jessica Watson set her goal on becoming the youngest person ever to sail solo non-stop and unassisted around the world. She announced this plan to her family when she was just 13 years old.
Jessica suffered from Dyslexia as a child and was unco-ordinated at sports, but she refused to let this daunt her aspirations. She studied hard and trained hard to realise her ambition. At 15 she was donated a 34 foot yacht. She doorknocked for donations and eventually achieved a sponsorship from Ella Bache to assist her journey.
Over a 4 month period she oversaw the extensive refit her yacht ‘Ella’s Pink Lady’ needed to face this epic voyage.
On her first night at sea Jessica’s yacht collided with a 63,000 tonne bulk carrier, dismasting her yacht and forcing her return to port for repairs. A media storm ensued and politicians discussed introducing legislation to prevent her continuing, but a month later she again set sail for her round world voyage.
She encountered many hardships and hazards along the way, from sheer loneliness to massive storms. One of these saw her tiny yacht smashed by a 90 foot wave and turned upside down on 4 occasions.
On May 15, 2010, after 210 days and 24,000 nautical miles she sailed triumphantly into Sydney harbour, having just turned 17 only days earlier. She was greeted by a sight that neither she nor the thousands on hand will ever forget. Thousands of boats filled the harbour to sail with her through The Heads and hundreds of thousands of people lined every foreshore vantage point to cheer her home in a hero’s welcome. Millions more watched on TV as every Australian Network covered her return.
Arriving at The Sydney Opera House and walking up the pink carpet she was greeted by the NSW Premier and the Australian Prime Minister who referred to her as ‘our newest Australian Hero. Jessica’s memorable response was this; “I would like to disagree with our Prime Minister. I do not consider myself a hero. I am just an ordinary person, who had a dream and worked hard at it. By sailing solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world, I have proved that anything really is possible”.
Having kept an extensive written log, Jessica’s book “The Spirit” was published just 3 months after her return. It immediately went to the top of the best-seller list. This book is soon to be a major motion picture.
In 2011 Jessica was awarded the title of ‘Young Australian of the Year’ and in 2012 acknowledged in the Australia Day Honours list with an OAM (Order of Australia Medal)