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Australia's Jessica Watson passes sea trial, will soon set sail around the world

October 5, 2009 | 11:11 am

Jessicawatson Should Jessica Watson be allowed to go? Does the 16-year-old Australian possess the sailing skills to negotiate her 34-foot boat around the world on a nonstop journey -- by herself?

Is the girl strong enough, mentally and physically, to deal with considerable hazards at sea, or the long, lonely calm stretches she's sure to face?

These are among questions being asked of the intrepid sailor who has just completed a five-day sea trial from Queensland to Sydney and will announce her departure date next week.

Watson probably will depart this month. Abby Sunderland, who turns 16 this month, hopes to begin a similar journey in November.

Abby's brother, Zac, and Britain's Mike Perham recently completed multi-stop around-the-world sailing adventures at the age of 17.

The girls -- Abby is from Thousand Oaks -- will be attempting to become the youngest ever to have sailed nonstop around the planet.

The Queensland government has suggested that Watson abandon her plans, but she'll proceed aboard Ella's Pink Lady, just as Sunderland will go if her family can raise money to buy her a boat.

Watson said she and her family "made the decision a long time ago that I was going, and the only thing left to do was prepare properly and make it safe."

I'm not sure sailing on a pink vessel is a safe choice for the Watson team, as it will announce to other mariners the presence of the fairer sex. But beyond that, she seems determined and capable, and she has the support of those who matter in her life, so who else is qualified to pass judgment?

The voyage is expected to last about 240 days. Here's hoping she makes it.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Jessica Watson arrives in Sydney aboard Ella's Pink Lady after a five-day sea trial in advance of her impending around-the-world sailing adventure. Credit: Dean Lewins / EPA