It was a glorious day in Sydney on Saturday May 15th, 2010, for more reasons than the weather. The harbour sparkled as hundreds of vessels crowded a small pink yacht, the Ella Pink Lady, as it made its way towards the Sydney Opera House. It was the skipper, Jessica Watson, they had come to see. This baby face teenager of just 16 years had just completed a startling round the world solo voyage.
At an age when many teenagers are planning their future careers, studying for university placements, or simply hanging out on the streets this plucky girl decided to do something amazing. With some pretty good sponsors behind her the family stripped down a yacht, sanded its timbers, painted and outfitted it to exacting degrees and made ready for this unbelievable trip of a lifetime.
Australia first heard about her sometime beforehand as she began to make her plans known. At that time she was just 15 years old and the skeptics were out in force. "It can't be done" some cried. Others suggested child welfare should get involved. But there were those who believed in her and egged her on. Television interviews, media coverage of her sailing skills, more sponsors rushing to get in on the publicity and an unwavering family support team meant she had it all going in her direction. So why should she be stopped?
Horror of horrors. Jessica set out from Brisbane for Sydney where the journey would commence and was asleep with the collision warning switched off. The inevitable happened. The little yacht collided with a massive tanker and broke its mast. This was taken as a sign that she could not handle the trip.
Limping into Brisbane for repairs the plucky young lady dealt with the criticism with the aplomb of a master in control. She knew what she intended and how dare anyone say she was not up to it.
Many Aussies held their breath as the day dawned and she set off out of Sydney Harbour and past the starting line. She was on her way. There was hardly any breeze and the first few days were slow but on she went.
On and on she went for 42,000 nautical kilometers. Up the Pacific Ocean, down into the Southern waters and around Cape Horn. Her videos show her enjoyment at the sight of land for the first time in weeks.
Dolphins appeared from horizon to horizon as she crossed the Indian Ocean and made her way to the south west coast of Australia. Into the Roaring Forties this plucky girl took her boat. It was here that a previous round the world sailor almost lost his life when his boat overturned and he was rescued by the Australian Navy.
The weather was dreadfully unkind and the swell was up to 10 meters or more high. The little yacht rose and crashed down again as her parents flew overhead giving her moral support.
Down again to the south of Tasmania in icy conditions Jessica Watson plowed on. The it was up the east coast where a few years before several yachties lost their life in a storm during the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. She faced almost similar conditions as the nation held its breath. Would she, could she make it home now in one piece?
Around the world people were sending her emails and she blogged about her journey and what she was experiencing but nothing could surpass the welcome that Sydney turned on, The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the New South Wales Premier, Christine Keneally, and tens of thousands waited at the Sydney Opera House and at last she stepped off the Pink Lady onto dry land.