Australian teen completes round-the-world sail
SYDNEY – A 16-year-old Australian who spent seven months at sea in her pink yacht sailed across the finish line of her round-the-world journey Saturday, becoming the youngest sailor to circle the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted.
Thousands of spectators erupted into cheers as Jessica Watson sailed into Sydney Harbour, the finale to an epic adventure in which she battled 40-foot (12-meter) waves, homesickness and critics who said she'd never make it home alive.
"She said she'd sail around the world, and she has," a tearful Julie Watson said as she watched her grinning daughter cruise past the finish line from a nearby boat. "She's home."
Watson docked at Sydney's iconic Opera House. The teenager burst into tears and gasped in relief as she stepped off the yacht and into the arms of her parents, whose decision to let their daughter attempt the feat was called an act of insanity by critics.
She hung onto her father and brother as she walked slowly and tentatively along a pink carpet rolled out in her honor — her first steps on land in 210 days. Fans screamed and waved as she walked by, many wearing pink clothes and holding pink flags in a nod to her 34-foot (10-meter) yacht, Ella's Pink Lady.
"People don't think you're capable of these things — they don't realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," Watson told the raucous crowd. "It's amazing when you take away those expectations what you can do."
Watson, from Buderim, north of Brisbane in Queensland state, sailed out of Sydney on Oct. 18 despite protests by critics that she was too immature and inexperienced for the treacherous journey. Her parents maintained that she was well-prepared and noted she has been sailing since the age of 8.
The story has some great details of her voyage. Watson insists she's not a hero, but I hope she is an inspiration.