Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Rise and Rise of Jessica Watson.

"While some in the sailing world have grumbled about Jessica Watson’s record attempt, the young Australian has managed to do something that no other professional sailor has managed for a long time – become a household name." – Admin of The Business of Yacht Racing.

As Jessica Watson’s Number One fan (I’m sure she has lots of Number One fans), I feel obligated to report on her latest adventures.

Jessica’s book, True Spirit, is now Australia’s Number One bestseller (fiction or non-fiction), selling 10,000 copies in ten days: Jessica Watson unfurls huge book sales

The latest Nielsen BookScan, based on data from 1000 retailers nationwide, shows True Spirit at No.1 for the week ending August 7.

Source: The Herald Sun

On the non-fiction side of things Jessica Watson's event at Readings Port Melbourne last Friday helped get her book True Spirit to the top of the non-fiction bestsellers list.

Source: Readings

From Jessica’s blog:

I’m not normally one to get excited by statistics, but I’m really excited about this one and just had to tell you about it. My book True Spirit has been working its way up the best seller list since the launch and today it was officially announced as the number one best-selling book in Australia, fiction and non-fiction. Wow!!
Thanks again to everyone out there for your amazing support.

Source: True Spirit Hits Number 1 !

The Business of Yachting Racing website gave some serious reflection to this.

From the Admin editorial:

According to the publishers, Australians purchased more than 10,000 copies of Jessica Watson’s book True Spirit in 10 days. The latest Nielsen BookScan, based on data from 1000 retailers nationwide, shows True Spirit at No.1 for the week ending August 7. Perhaps the Defender of the America’s Cup is going down the wrong path. Perhaps sailing doesn’t need to be more exciting – it needs to be more interesting. Sailors, not their boats need to be more interesting. There is an opportunity for an athlete in the sport who is willing to be famous to step forwards and become a rock-star. If Jessica Watson can do it, then so can others.

Source: Jessica Watson Australia’s No. 1 Sailor.

I was pretty much a sailing ignoramus until I heard of Jessica Watson. I’m not about to rush out and buy a sail boat (don’t have the money anyway), but I think it’s quite amazing how one person (let alone a 16 year old) can garner so much interest in a sport, so I think the above editorial has a point.

Here’s another example of Jessica’s amazing influence:

Look out Jessica Watson, a new breed of sailor is on the rise. Children from the Maroochy Sailing Club took to the water on Sunday in a demonstration of sailing’s new pulling power among youth on the Sunshine Coast.

The kids set sail with brand new boats which were bought by the club in response to a huge rise in youth registration over the past few months.
MSC Commodore John Pearce said the desire to sail has never been stronger thanks to the sport’s recent media coverage.

“We’ve gone from having almost nobody 12 months ago to 26 of the little guys signed up today,” he said.
“We just got 26 new Optimist Dinghies which makes us one of the largest fleets on the East Coast.”
“(The recent media coverage) gives us a higher profile and attracts more sponsorship and donations. We’re getting a lot more people to help out.”
“The Jessica Watson story is giving everyone a focus to get together and go forward.”

Source: Jessica Watson inspires spike in junior sailing numbers

And harking back to Jessica’s comment to The Los Angeles Times before her incredible solo around the world voyage, her goal has been achieved:

"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."

Jess still has her knockers, but I suspect that the majority have seen through the thin veneer of her critics and You Tube wannabes. While I wouldn’t yet put her in the same league as the great Don Bradman (which some may find offensive at this stage), it may yet materialise in the future (she's still only 17). Bradman, as great a cricketer as he was, still had his critics, to whom he responded:

There are people who wish to draw attention to themselves by attacking me.

Jessica responded exactly once to her critics, during her voyage, which is recorded on her blog, and regretted later that it may have been a waste of time. Her actions and accomplishments did all the talking.

But what about this “inspiration” factor?

It doesn’t just apply to sailing. Today (Saturday August 22), there’s a Federal election in progress. Sometime tonight, or tomorrow morning, we’re going to know who the next Prime Minister of Australia is, and it will be either the Labor incumbent Julia Gillard, or the main contender Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party. Unfortunately, bells are not ringing across the world:

How to break this gently given the mantra that Australia "punches above its weight" overseas.
No-one is talking about us.

According to a survey of the some 20,000 articles and transcripts mentioning Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott since the election started just 700 of them have been reports in the international media. The rest have been published here.

Just 700. That's just 3.5 per cent of the total. If it's any consolation it's about double Australia's contribution to the world economy, so that's something…..

Chris Pash, the director content licensing in the Asia-Pacific for Dow Jones and someone who monitors news around the world, said of the international yawn: "It's not surprising, we're fairly bored ourselves."

Source: The world's not watching, it's just a big yawn

It’s quite possible; even likely, that more foreigners know who Jessica Watson is, than they know who Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott are.

If Jessica ever decides to move into Australian politics, there may yet be some hope for its resurrection from banality and boredom – because at the moment it’s as dead as Lazarus.

Endnote: A good site I recommend for those interested in following Jessica’s progress is: Jessica Watson Info

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