The concept of ‘youngest ’round’ records has never held a great deal of appeal for us here at SA, though our official position on the two latest teen record attempts (Watson and Sunderland) has always been that the propriety of the attempts is nobody’s business but the families. In fact, we have said from the beginning that the girls getting out there and giving it a try is nothing but a major positive for the sport itself – whether they succeed or fail, young girls doing anything extreme cannot help but expose our sport to millions around the world.
As cynical as we are, we cannot help but be blown away by the overwhelming success experienced by Jessica Watson. Never mind the PR hacks, the ‘record’ disputes, the trademark claims – this girl has enthralled a nation and hopefully inspired an entire generation of Australian girls to start wondering about going yachting.
Watson’s arrival brought Sydney Harbor to a standstill, with live television crews rolling for literally hours, and the Prime Minister himself awaiting Jess’s arrival like a doting suitor, anointing her "Australia’s Newest Hero." From a mainstream Ozzie standpoint, Watson’s trip could be the biggest sailing story in a decade – with stories on every major network in Oz and one even jumping to the world’s biggest news aggregator, the Drudge Report.
We don’t care how (un)polished her PR agency is, nor how she got her sponsorship money. We don’t care about non-existent records or whether it’s right or wrong to encourage teens to go to sea. We don’t care about her weather routing or her comms equipment, or whether a ghost writer will pen her book (to be released this summer…)
All we care about is this: One 16 year-old girl, weighing about 100 pounds, just sailed a heavy 34′ cruiser around the Southern Ocean – alone – without stopping. She stood up to rogue waves as she stood up to critics, taking the shot, rolling back upright, and continuing on her way. Her pictures and notes were always cheerful and bright, and she seems incapable of a frown, and her accomplishment blows away those of 99% of the population – and for that, she’s SA’s first Sailor Chick of the Year. Here’s the marathon thread, and this photo is from Christophe Launay/sealaunay.com.