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Jessica Watson survives collision, still wants to sail around the world alone

September 11, 2009 |  4:29 pm

JessAustralian sailor Jessica Watson stated today on her blog: "I think it's fair to say that there aren't many people left that haven't heard about the incident on Tuesday night."

In case you missed it, Watson, aboard a 34-foot yacht on which she hopes to sail around the world, was involved in a collision with a 700-foot cargo freighter during what was supposed to be a 10-day test-run from Mooloolaba, Australia, to Sydney, Australia.

Fortunately, the 16-year-old, who aspires to become the youngest person to sail around the planet alone, was not injured. However, her vessel, Ella's Pink Lady, suffered damage to its rigging and hull and a broken mast. That is likely to delay her planned late-September departure.

Watson seemed unfazed during a press conference this week. In fact, she implied she's more determined and confident than ever because of the way she handled herself in the aftermath of the 2 a.m. collision.

"I won’t play it down, it was a pretty scary incident and it was great to actually know what to do," she said.

Precise details are not clear but the collision, which occurred in reasonably calm seas in a shipping lane as she was below deck with her navigation lights on, is under investigation by Australian authorities.

Meanwhile, the crash has underscored the danger associated with solo-sailing adventures and stirred renewed debate over whether 16 is simply too young to attempt such a daunting excursion.

Wrote Susan Hocking of Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper: "And it's that number that breaks me up. That number 16. Jessica Watson is a child. And right now, she is a child who desperately needs saving from herself and her choices and, let's get it out there, the family and friends -- Team Jessica -- who seem so hellbent on offering their support to a venture that should not be allowed to go ahead."

Thousand Oaks sailor Zac Sunderland and England's Mike Perham both were 16 when they set out -- and both recently completed their around-the-world journeys at 17. It's also worth noting that Sunderland's sister Abby, who turns 16 in October, is planning to leave on a nonstop circumnavigation aboard a 40-foot sailboat in November.

Presumably, she will pay special attention while traversing the shipping lanes.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Jessica Watson