Jessica Watson, 16, is about to set off round the world alone


Australian teenager Jessica Watson says she is planning to set off this week on her attempt to become the youngest to sail alone non-stop round the world.

She has been in Sydney giving interviews before leaving in Ella’s Pink Lady, the S&S34 she has been lent. She intends to head north of New Zealand before shaping a course for Cape Horn and eastwards past the Cape of Good Hope.

We understand that Maritime Safety Queensland attempted to dissuade Jessica and her parents after its investigation into her collision in September with a 63,000 tonne cargo ship which left the yacht dismasted and damaged. The investigation, which was leaked to a local newspaper, made it plain that she had not kept a proper log, and was unable to ‘course plots on paper charts or waypoints on the plotter.’

But Jessica’s parents have hit back, refusing to comment and implying that they considered the leak of what should have been a confidential document unprofessional.

While not in any way wishing to take sides, as I have not met Jessica, what I found most alarming is the comment made by her own PR advisers on her website 

‘If the quality of Jessica Watson’s performance?on land at the media conference is to be indicative of her performance on the sea in her solo circumnavigation attempt, then this inspirational 16 year old is well on the way to achieving her dream.’

This is nonsensical. There is absolutely no correlation between anyone’s media performance and their sailing abilities. Making such a link and then vaulting halfway to success on it is a reckless sort of promotion.

It’s a pity there is such a hurry to undertake this voyage. I wish I didn’t feel Jessica’s voyage was so much about the value of a media image, but then that is what the youngest record is all about.

Isn’t it?