Completed a solo circumnavigation of the southern hemisphere at age 16
"Jessica Watson, OAM is an Australian sailor who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for completing a southern hemisphere solo circumnavigation at the age of 16. Departing Sydney on 18 October 2009, Watson headed north-east crossing the equator in the Pacific Ocean before crossing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She returned to Sydney on 15 May 2010, three days before her 17th birthday. The voyage was shorter than the required 21,600 nautical miles to be considered a global circumnavigation, and Watson never claimed the voyage to be an attempt at such, preferring the less formal term 'around the world'. In recognition of her achievement Watson was named the 2011 Young Australian of the Year, and the following year was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia. She currently resides in Buderim, Queensland.
Watson had been planning to complete a solo non-stop and unassisted circumnavigation since at least early 2008. Officially announced in May 2009, the journey was expected to take eight months with an estimated distance of 23,000 nautical miles. To fulfill the plan of sailing non-stop and unassisted, during the journey no other person would be allowed to give her anything and she must not moor to any port or other boat, although advice over radio communication was permitted.
Watson's planned circumnavigation route was to start and end at Sydney, and to pass near New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and South East Cape. In accordance with the definitions for circumnavigations set out by the International Sailing Federation's WSSRC, the equator must be crossed; this crossing was carried out near Kiritimati. However, the WSSRC criteria also stipulate that a global circumnavigation must have an orthodromic distance of 21,600 nautical miles. Watson's journey did not meet this requirement.
Watson arrived back in Sydney Harbour at 1:53 pm, Saturday 15 May 2010.
The Los Angeles Times reported Watson's reason for her journey: "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."
After the journey she continued a relationship with Michael Perham, the continuing youngest circumnavigator. They met during a stop he made in Australia during his circumnavigation, and they had several phone conversations during her journey. Watson has also been seen with Australia's youngest ever federal politician, Wyatt Roy. Jessica's mother insists they are just friends, and that Jessica's schedule—which takes her around the country and world—is currently preventing her from "dating boys."
Watson has written a book about her experience, True Spirit published by Hachette Australia. The book was released 29 July 2010.
Watson has also filmed a documentary about her solo trip before, during and after completing her journey. It was narrated by Sir Richard Branson and premiered on ONEHD on 16 August 2010, before being released on DVD along with a CD album on 20 August 2010…
At the arrival in Sydney, she was met by approximately 75,000 spectators including then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. He said "Jess welcome back to dry land. Welcome back home to Australia. You know something, you may feel a little wobbly on your feet just now, but in the eyes of all Australians you now stand tall as our newest Australian hero." The crowd then sang a special rendition of Australia's national Anthem Advance Australia Fair as a salute to Watson…
Since completing her circumnavigation, Watson has been recognised with a number of awards. These include the "Spirit of Sport" award from the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, and "Young Performer of the Year" for 2010, an award voted by the Australian public and presented at the annual Sports Performer Awards in Melbourne. She was selected as one of the ten international "2010 Adventurers of the Year" by National Geographic Society, and was the only sailor in the group.
Watson was named the Young Australian of the Year on 25 January 2011.
She was selected as one of the entrants to the Who's Who in Australia 2012 edition.
Watson was the first female skipper to cross the line in the 2011 Sydney to Hobart and as a result earned the Jane Tate trophy.
Watson received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the Australia Day Honours List in January 2012 for service to sailing and to youth through the achievement of sailing solo and unassisted around the world, and as a role model for young Australians." (1)