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Global sailor Jessica Watson may set no record, but she will still achieve her dream

16-year-old Jessica Watson on her yacht, Ella's Pink Lady, in May, 2009. Watson left Sydney, Australia, October 18, 2009 on her non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation.

Australian teenager Jessica Watson is less than two weeks from completing her quest to solo-circumnavigate the globe. When the 16-year-old arrives at Sydney Harbor on the recently announced date of  May 15 and disembarks Ella's Pink Lady at the Sydney Opera House, she will become the youngest person to have sailed around the world, alone and unassisted, without stopping.

She will, however, be setting no record.

The World Speed Sailing Racing Council, the international sailing body that monitors around-the-world-sailing record attempts, no longer assesses claims for the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe.

Some go a step further, claiming that Watson has not sailed far enough to meet the criteria required for an around-the-world voyage.

Rob Kothe, SailWorld.com editor, told Australia's Nine News that "questions had been asked what record she was going for," saying that sailing experts had long known that the route in question would not qualify as a full circumnavigation.

An article on the website states that Watson will fall about 2,000 nautical miles short of her goal, because she did not sail far enough north of the equator. The racing council world-record course rules for offshore yachts of any size state that the shortest orthodromic track of the vessel must be at least 21,600 nautical miles.

According to Sail World, when Watson finishes, she likely will have traveled a course of around 23,000 nautical miles, according to her log. But as happens in every sailing passage, Jessica has not sailed a straight line, instead zigging and zagging her way across the oceans, adding mileage that shouldn't be included (nautical mileage is published according to the straight-line distances and does not include the tacks or gybes that a vessel might make).

Corresponding to the great-circle calculations carried out by one of Australian leading offshore navigators, and cross-checked by a number of others, Watson has traveled 18,265 nautical miles orthodromic distance (or 19,631 rhumb line distance), which adds up to 2,335 nautical miles less than the official circumnavigation distance.

Word of this has, of course, reached Watson's team. Spokesman Andrew Fraser has posted a formal response to the claims on Watson's website, excerpted here:

The facts are as follows.

Jessica has sailed a southern hemisphere solo circumnavigation. There are some basic key requirements that she must adhere to.

'To sail around the world, a vessel must start from and return to the same point, must cross all meridians of longitude and must cross the Equator'.

Jessica has ticked all of these boxes.

Jessica has sailed the most challenging and treacherous oceans of the world, passing the four capes (Cape Horn, Cape Agulhas, Cape Leeuwin and the Cape of SE Tasmania) and crossed the Equator twice. She has sailed around the world, non-stop, solo, unassisted and when she completes the voyage, she will be the youngest to have done that, sailing almost 23,000 nautical miles in the process. We have official TracPlus data to confirm Jessica’s exact distance upon her return, which currently sits at 22,336 nautical miles.

Watson and her team have long known that there is no longer a record -- the racing council stopped recognizing claims for the youngest in any area of sailing, so the record will forever belong to fellow Australian Jesse Martin, who in 1999 became the youngest to sail solo around the world unassisted.

Both Jesse Martin and Britain's Mike Perham, currently the youngest to sail around the world solo, assisted, will be at the finish line in Sydney to congratulate Watson when she arrives after almost seven months at sea (Watson left Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 18, 2009).

Watson will achieve her goal of sailing around the world nonstop, solo and unassisted before her 17th birthday, and that can never be taken away from her. There likely aren't many who achieve their dreams, especially not at 16.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: 16-year-old Jessica Watson on her yacht, Ella's Pink Lady, in May 2009. Watson left Sydney, Australia,  on Oct. 18, 2009, on her nonstop, unassisted circumnavigation. Credit: Eddie Safarik / AFP/Getty Images

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Comments (18)

Jessica has completed a circumnavigation by most people's regard. You cannot doubt that if you see the route she took. She has certainly sailed around the globe. She has also sailed through some of the toughest seas on this planet. She has sailed through storms and her boat has been overturned several times. Missing a few thousand nautical miles does not detract much from her achievement.

But in the end, it doesn't matter what everyone thinks. Jessica set herself a goal of sailing solo around the world. She achieved that. So from her perspective, she would be extremely happy with the accomplishment. That's what matters; not living up to other's expectations, but living up to your own.

Jessica had to know that she wasn't going far enough north to achieve the record. I'm sure her team investigated what the rules were. It's plain as day on the WSSRC's website. Jesse Martin's route is even posted on the internet so why not just duplicate his route? She knew that she wasn't going far enough but she didn't care. So why should we care about her? Are we going to now start bending the rules for certain people? So I could just go sailing around somewhere and then claim that I did something that I didn't? The WSSRC was created to prevent people like Jessica Watson from claiming that they did something that they did not do. And the WSSRC has done it's job.

my name is pottet and i come from Vietnam
im 16 yr old
i live in sydney
nice to meet you....
bye bye

Go Jessica. why are people so critisizing of her achievements ?

Can anyone tell me if World Speed Sailing Racing Council is the ONLY official place to record these types of records & if there is other places (Guinness world records) - has anyone heard from them as to what they have / will record about Jessicas' goal.

MOST (not all) young kids, have dreams & goals, & many try but fail at such a young age to achieve anything (but may achieve later in life). Jessica has set her goals - Even impossible to believe, even by her own family. She has taught herself, or find tutors in any area she felt she needed to gain knowledge, she found the people, & sponsors & managers etc to achieve her gaol AND SHE SUCEEDED.

It doesn't matter what the WSSRC say about her, She set a goal, & achieved it.

QUERY 1) does anyone know the EXACT rules the WSSRC has set, in order to circumnavigate the globe (disregarding the age aspect).

QUERY 2) Would it be MORE of an achievement for a younger person to achieve a goal that most adults cannot do - & does anyone know why the age barrier for the record.

QUERY 3) Reminder about Guinness World Records - Above.

If the organization does not recognize age records anymore, then no one should be recognized by holding an age record. Shouldn't all names for an age record be abolished/ eliminated? How can someone hold a record, if someone is not allowed to brake the record......?

Looks like the boys club knew she was going to fail at some point into her voyage, with issues around milage sailed. If they were tracking her in real time, why wasn't the issue addressed with her team and everyone agree upon actual milage progress, and re review the milage requirements!

Looks pretty bad for the big boy discrimation club! Did they change the age rule when they heard that Jessica and Abby were planning their voyages?

Some of this smells awful FISHY!

Kelly, it's probably a typo, but in your second last paragraph it says Jesse Martin sailed solo around the world 'assisted'. It was meant to be 'unassisted'. But yes JW is going to be in history books one way or another because it is still an extremely rare achievement, no matter what officialdom says about it.

I do believe that Frank was joking there Camden. :)

@ Frank

Are you kidding me? I cant belive yo would have the nerve to say such a thing. I agree with everybody else she deserves this record and the WSSRA are a bunch of nothings. I'd like to see you go do what she just did. But i know that wont happen. Your the one who owes an apology to the young lady.

Go jesse!

heart of a lion! - you go

Only 18,265 nautical miles! Alone! What a hack! She deserves nothing. I demand she apologize for not doing more. By age 16 she should be able to realize her absolute lack of commitment. She brings shame to the world of youth sailing. What a sad, sad generation.

I remember at age 17 being stuck in a storm with 80 knots of wind. The 97' 100 ton schooner I was on was like a cork in a bathtub. This young lady's accomplishment is impressive and her character molded by this adventure sets her apart from 99.9% of the souls that walk this earth. The bureaucrats at the WSSRC need to get a life, Jessica accomplished what they can only dream about.

I have been following Jessica on her blog ever since she left Sydney in October. Regardless of what these clowns think or say, what she has accomplished is absolutely remarkable. Record or no record, who really cares? There are a lot of people out here who will remember her journey for a lot more than setting some sort of record. Congrats Jessica. Well done.

Already her detractors are doing their part to lessen the achievement of Jessica Watson. Whether they like it or not, when she arrives in Sidney this week she will have circumnavigated the the globe and crossed the equator, solo, and unassisted prior to her 17th birthday. It should be noted that none experts at WSSRC or any sailing experts, for that mater, will ever accomplish this feat unless they are at that young and tender age to try it themselves. Jessica's detractors only demean themselves and their sport, which they claim to love, with their behavior. My question to them is: Compared to Jessica's voyage, what have you done that is particularly note worthy.

That is one beautiful photograph!

The bottom line is that Jessica is the youngest person who has ever circumnavigated the world; and so she will be remembered as such. Also, she is a sterling example of what her generation is capable of which bodes well in view of the fact that the planet now needs people who are capable of great deeds in saving what is left of this beautiful, ravaged blue marble. No amount of braying by a bunch of fat assed, wealthy, white guys in some racing association who tool around weekends in their 30 footers will make a damn bit of difference. We need to celebrate those who have desires to go where few have gone before.

are you kidding me? She is 16, there are not many motivated 16 year olds in the world to have that kind of spirit that Jessica does. How negative can you be. why take away form her accomplishment? what a shame that there are so many negative people that are just so bitter and unhappy with their own lives that they are really unable to see and enjoy the accomplishments of others.
Record or no record. Jessica Watson at 16 had done something that most adults could not do. What courage she has shown and the inspiration with her attitude and spirit is remarkable

Jessica's accomplishment is not lost on real sailors.


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.