Round-the-world teenager’s voyage over before it began

September 9th, 2009 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 9 (DPA) A 16-year-old Australian bidding to become the youngest ever round-the-world solo sailor was limping back to Australia’s east coast Wednesday after damaging her 10.4-metre yacht in a collision with a 63,000-ton cargo ship.
Just a day into her planned eight-month voyage, Jessica Watson was uninjured, but her boat was damaged and is returning to Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.

“They came together at sea, and she’s now bringing the boat back to south-east Queensland,” Watson family spokesman Scott Young said. “It certainly hasn’t stopped the voyage. I can’t ever see Jessica not wanting to do this.”

Young said Watson was on her way to Sydney, where she was to officially start her attempt to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.

Watson had initially set her sights on a record set 10 years ago by fellow Australian Jesse Martin, who at 18 circumnavigated the globe on his own. Martin’s record was broken last month by 17-year-old Briton Mike Perham.

Watson’s parents have been criticised over the record attempt. The Australian Family Association’s John Morrissey led the chorus of complaint.

“I’m a secondary teacher, and I’ve been teaching 15-year-old girls for 42 years, and I’d be amazed if any of them could cope with something like that,” Morrissey said of the intended voyage.

The arguments mirrored those in the Netherlands, where there is a legal battle over the circumnavigation plans of 13-year-old Laura Dekker.

Watson has been championed by seasoned adventurer Don McIntyre, who has lent her his boat Pink Lady for the global girdle.

“We can’t afford to over-protect our kids,” he said. “They need to find themselves, challenge the natural world and understand what it is to minimise risk and make good decisions.”

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