Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saturday Too Far Away.

There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.

Sir Francis Drake. (Leader of the first English circumnavigation of the world, from 1577 to 1580.)

"I wanted to challenge myself and achieve something to be proud of. And yes, I wanted to inspire people. I hated being judged by my appearance and other people's expectations of what a 'little girl' was capable of. It's no longer just my dream or voyage. Every milestone out here isn't just my achievement, but an achievement for everyone who has put so much time and effort into helping getting me here." "It's experience, not age, the ocean doesn't care how old you are." - Jessica Watson

As one media organisation commented, Australia is holding its collective breath that Jessica Watson will arrive safely in Sydney Harbour in just two days. From the beginning there were problems, with the tanker collision, and much criticism from certain quarters about her age and experience. This isn’t something sixteen year old girls should be doing, they said. But it has become more and more apparent that Jessica Watson is no ordinary sixteen year old girl.

I came to this amazing solo sail late, when Jessica was somewhere in the Indian Ocean, and I’m really not sure why it has affected me so much. I vividly remember watching John Bertrand skipper Australia II to victory in the America’s Cup in 1983, ending 132 years of American domination. It was a moment you could replay over and over, but one captured in minutes, not in hours, days, weeks and months. Yet ever since I became aware of Jessica’s solo sail I’ve become almost obsessed in following her journey. This isn’t just about sailing. It’s about character and courage, and, yes, inspiration.

Even in the final leg home to Sydney, the elements have not let up. According to the Weather Channel (12-5-10):

A cold front that surged through Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales earlier this week is now moving out through the Tasman Sea. Behind this front we are seeing gale-force south to southwest winds off the South Coast of New South Wales, leading to the formation of large seas and swells. The combination of these strong winds and the large seas will make for challenging conditions for teen sailor Jessica Watson as she makes the final leg of her journey towards Sydney Harbour.

Jessica Watson is expected to reach the safe and protected waters of Sydney Harbour on Saturday, although it's not going to be an easy few days. As mentioned, gale-force south to southwest winds are expected off the South Coast of New South Wales on Thursday, while combined seas and swells may reach 6 metres. The positive news is that the south to southwest winds should aid Jessica's northward journey.

One thing I’m heartened to see is that Sail World is now looking more positively on Jessica:

Teenage Sunshine Coast schoolgirl Jessica Watson will claim a deserved place in the history of Globe solo sailing when she sails Ella’s Pink Lady through Sydney Heads on Saturday…Many will stand in disbelief that a young girl who has demonstrated super human courage and determination has achieved her goal to sail over the weather tormented oceans and complete the adventure to become the youngest person to sail alone and unassisted around the World. The truly remarkable teenager deserves all the applause and recognition for having defied the advice from many experts that she was too young, too small and inexperienced to sail a small and relatively slow yacht around the Globe alone….Jessica progressively gained support from numerous positive admirers after she set sail from Sydney last October. However understandably there were many others including this columnist who held personal concern for the ambitious female teenager. But day by day over the energy absorbing period of almost seven months Jessica personally answered her critics who had some grave fear on how she would cope.

Source: Spinnaker Tales – Jessica Watson

Congratulations, Sail World, for finally catching up with public sentiment. You may be experts on sailing, but it is the public who will judge Jessica Watson, not experts and “committees” and their arbitrary nitpicking rules, even if you intend to go on with “legalities” according to cigar-smoking and tea-sipping “committees”. I would not even know who Sail World are were it not for Jessica Watson, and would not care less. As Sir Donald Bradman once said, “There are people who wish to draw attention to themselves by attacking me”. How true this has been in regard to Jessica. On a brighter note, another sailing great, James Spithill , echoing John Bertrand’s sentiments, said:

One of the world's leading sailors yesterday heaped praise on the teenager. Australian and America's Cup winning skipper James Spithill said he was in "awe" of the teenager who is now heading to a hero's welcome in Sydney on Saturday after seven months at sea.

"There were a lot of people against her," he said.

"She has silenced them."

Source: Jessica Watson storming home on a wild wind

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