Is 16-year-old Jessica Watson in danger of being milked for maximum profit?

Here’s something that’s scary and worrying in equal measure.

The publicity team behind 16-year-old Jessica Watson is working on how best to capitalise if she successfully completes her non-stop solo circumnavigation later this year.


Spokesman Andrew Fraser from 5 Oceans Media commented: “Our job is to manage and protect the Jessica Watson brand.”

How sad to think of a 16-year-old minor being deliberately confected as a brand.

There has been much well-meaning and worthwhile debate about the merits of teenagers sailing alone round the world. Say what you like but so far every one who’s set off – from Jesse Martin to David Dicks to Zac Sunderland to Mike Perham – has succeeded safely. No adult professional solo round the world race can boast this kind of record or ratio of success.

Every bit as worrying, though, is the prospect of businesspeople latching on to these efforts and milking them for profit. Fame is something that comes with a price tag no 16-year-old can possibly understand.

Besides, if these youngsters’ voyages are rewarded with fame and fortune the ‘youngest’ record – by its nature a race for physical and mental immaturity – becomes an attractive proposition to exploit.

Mike Perham, the 17-year-old record-holder, told me last year he hoped he’d make enough money to recoup the £50,000 spent by his family on his solo circumnavigation last year. He has just published a book entitled ‘Sailing the Dream’ but that will hardly be enough to top up the coffers.

I know it might seem very mean to say so, but I really do hope there isn’t lots of money in this game. Certainly not enough to distract Mike, Jessica and others from getting back to normal life, returning to school and, whatever sailing or other adventures they later choose, gaining the qualifications they need so they never need to turn themselves into a brand or trade their privacy for a living.