Jessica Watson is a few thousand miles short of a record, but what she as achieved is never the less extraordinary.
Image by Jessica Watson courtesy Jessica Watson, SOURCE
Teen update: Jessica expected to Sydney Saturday

Posted: May 06, 2010 08:39 pm EDT
Jessica Watson is approaching Sydney fast and she will receive a heroes welcome in front of the Sydney Opera House when she steps ashore Saturday, but while she is sailing the last miles there is a lot of debate about she breaking a record or not.

There is no doubt that the 16-year-old Jessica Watson has achieved something extraordinary. She has been alone at sea for over 200 days and handled all that mother earth has thrown at her, technical failures and not the least her own mental and physical health all on her own. I have to say it again: At the age of 16!

Most girls and boys at that age have more than enough with homework, which boyfriend to choose today and shopping. But not Jessica. She wanted to sail around the world non stop, unassisted and all by her self. And she did it (on Saturday, that is). Amazing.

But did she break the record?

The World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC), the official record body that operates under the auspices of International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the main body for World Sailing is the recognised world authority in these matters.

Before she even set out on her journey it was clear that WSSRC wouldnt accept her as a record holder as they have an 18 year old age minimum limit. And since the purpose of the whole adventure was to be the youngest and she is under 18, well...

But if we put the age issue aside, you still have some rules to follow if you want to claim a world record title. Its a bit like if you want to be a World Champion in football, you and your team has to play in the World Championship and win under their rules.

The other and more important, criteria that Jessica Watson has failed are the distance covered. Yes, she has sailed over 22.000 nautical miles according to her onboard log. But that is actual miles and sailboats dont travel in a straight line. They tack and gybe and all this on a round the world journey amount to a lot of nautical miles.

The online sailing publication Sail World had the great circle calculations carried out by one of Australian leading offshore navigators and crossed checked by a number of others, she has travelled 18,265 nm orthodromic distance (or 19,631 rhumb line distance), which adds up to 2,335 nm LESS than the official round the world distance, and 3,495 nm less than Jesse Martin's official Performance Certificate distance.

The input for these calculations came from Jessicas own team. The shortest orthodromic track of the vessel must be at least 21,600 nautical miles in length calculated based on a 'perfect sphere', according to the WSSRC.

She has checked all the other boxes: start from and return to the same point, cross all meridians of longitude and cross the Equator. But not the calculated distance sailed.

Never the less. Her achievement is extraordinary, and will and has inspired thousands of others. If you are in Sydney on Saturday: Heres how your day should look like. She deserves a heroes welcome:

It is anticipated that Jessica will cross the finish line at approximately 11:30am and arrive at the Sydney Opera House around 12.30pm, the first time she will have set foot on land in almost seven months.

Organisers are urging Sydneysiders to arrive early to secure the best vantage point and show Jessica a true heros welcome.

Spectators are encouraged to line the shores or take to the waters of Sydney Harbour to help celebrate the remarkable achievements of this courageous teenager who has single-handedly overcome the odds - a unique and amazing set of challenges for anyone to take on, let alone a 16 year old.

With the world watching on, this historic event will be broadcast live on Network Ten and their digital channel One.

Jessica Watson was born on 18 May 1993 on the Gold Coast and currently lives in Buderim Australia. On 19 October 2009 16-year old Jessica Watson set sail on from Sydney Harbour passing the official start line of her around the world journey at Sydney Heads at 9.49 am. It is a estimated 23,000 mile, 230 day solo voyage.

Jessicas goal is to sail solo around the world non-stop, unassisted. She says she has chosen a route that is a traditionally recognized path and distance for around the world sailors.

Part 1 Departing Sydney and North to the Line Island; Part 2 South to Chile and Cape Horn; Part 3 Cape to Cape; Part 4 The South Atlantic Ocean to the African continent; Part 5 Rounding South Africa; Part 6 Southern Ocean to Home.

Jessica stated on her website, There are a few key targets I must achieve to qualify for around the world status. The approximate distance is 23,000 nautical miles (about 38,000 kilometers). I must depart and arrive from the same port, cross all lines of longitude, cross the equator entering into the Northern Hemisphere at least once and round the southern landmarks of South America and South Africa. This route is very similar to the one chosen by Kay Cottee, who returned in 1988.

Ellas Pink Lady specs according to Jessicas website:
The S&S (Sparkman and Stephens) 34, a classic design from the famous Sparkman & Stephens, it is known firstly for its seaworthiness, toughness and track record. It is a boat capable of consistent speeds and one that Jessica can easily handle.

The S&S 34 became famous after Jon Sanders, David Dicks and Jesse Martin used them for their history making solo circumnavigations. There is now an S&S 34 association and hundreds of other S&S 34 have made and are making successful circumnavigations and offshore passages.

S&S 34s are commonly entered in the notorious Sydney to Hobart and many participate in club racing all around Australia and the world.

Both British Mike Perham and American Zac Sunderland sailed around the world assisted. They were 16 when they started their voyages. Zac turned 17 on November 29, 2008 and Mike turned 17 on March 16, 2009.

Mike stayed further out to sea, whereas Zac stayed closer to shore. Zac Sunderland departed on his yacht from Marina del Rey, California on 14 June 2008 and arrived back 13 months later on July 16, 2009. Mike Perham left from Portsmouths Gunwharf Quays on Saturday 15th November 2008 and crossed his finish line on 27 August 2009. He currently holds the record for the youngest sailor around the world, assisted.

A 14-year old Dutch girl, Laura Dekkers dream is to become the youngest to sail around the world, but in her home country authorities stopped her first attempt. But she now has permission to start when she is 15 years old. Her plan is to start her record attempt in September 2010.

17-year old Ryan Langley was born on July 4, 1992. He plans a non-stop circumnavigation with a Contessa 32'. According to the website the voyage will begin by heading westward from the Olympic Peninsula through the straights of Juan de Fuca to the open Pacific.

American Abby Sunderland, born on 16 October 1993, aimed to do the youngest non-stop solo circumnavigation. Abbys boat Wild Eyes is an Open 40 sailboat and a Scott Hollers Jutson design built in 2001 by ASA Yachts of Australia and went around the world as BTC Velocity in the 2002-'03 Around Alone, helmed by Bermuda sailor Alan Paris. The Open 40 was specifically designed for single-handed sailing in the Southern Ocean.

Abby pulled in to Cape Town for repairs May 5th and thereby effectively ended her non-stop attempt, but she will continue.





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