Kiwi family to meet solo sailor for round-world climax

Jessica Watson's cousin Terri Taylor, of Ripponvale, grandparents Margaret and Gordon Chisholm,...
Jessica Watson's cousin Terri Taylor, of Ripponvale, grandparents Margaret and Gordon Chisholm, of Lowburn and aunt Wendy Taylor, of Ripponvale, are among the family members from New Zealand who will welcome her home. Photo by Lynda Van Kempen.
The Central Otago family of Australian sailor Jessica Watson will be on hand at the celebrations marking her arrival in Sydney next week, reminding the Australians of her New Zealand heritage.

"She's our contribution to Australia," says her Lowburn grandfather, Gordon Chisholm.

After a seven-month journey, Jessica (16) is just over a week away from becoming the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe solo. She is expected to arrive in Sydney on Saturday, May 15, and her New Zealand grandparents, aunts, uncles and most of her cousins will be there to join in the celebrations.

"Kevin Rudd is supposed to be there and I'll have a crack at him and remind him of her New Zealand heritage," Mr Chisholm said yesterday.

Jessica's parents, Julie and Roger, are both from New Zealand.

Jessica Watson at sea last year. Photo supplied.
Jessica Watson at sea last year. Photo supplied.
Among the "Kiwi contingent" heading over to Sydney next week are Mr and Mrs Chisholm, and Jessica's New Zealand aunts and uncles - Wendy Taylor, of Ripponvale, Vivienne and Andrew Ivory, of Wellington, Neville and Jenny Chisholm, of Tarras, and five of Jessica's cousins - Terri Taylor (10), of Ripponvale, Charlie (8) and Jody (7) Chisholm, of Tarras, and Conor (14) and Joseph (11) Ivory, of Wellington.

Grandma Margaret Chisholm readily admits there will be tears when they see "our Jessie" complete her marathon task.

"She's already in tears, just thinking about it," jokes daughter Wendy.

A hero's welcome is planned for the teenage sailor, who will turn 17 on May 18.

She left Sydney on October 18 last year and needs to cross the finish line at Sydney heads to officially complete her 42,000km voyage.

Depending on conditions, Jessica is expected to cross the "finish line" about 11.30am, arriving at the Sydney Opera House about 12.30pm and setting foot on land for the first time in seven months.

"Apparently, there's an official welcome from the state government of New South Wales. The whole harbour is going to be locked down and there will be a flotilla of boats and masses of spectators to welcome her in," Mr Chisholm said.

"We're not sailing people at all. She doesn't get that ability from us, but we'll lay claim to all her other qualities.

"We're going out on a catamaran to meet her at Sydney and I've said to Julie that I hope it's a big one."

Cousin Terri says New Zealand flags or soft toy kiwis are likely to make an appearance.

Her Central Otago family are sure she will take all the hoopla in her stride.

"She's certainly captured the attention of the media and she's never been one to seek the limelight but she's coped remarkably well," he said.

A television documentary is being filmed about her voyage and a book of her journey will be published in August.

In Jessica's latest entry on her website blog, she says there is more sailing to look forward to.

Getting her driver's licence and finishing school are on her list of things to do next.

The teenager is in frequent contact with her New Zealand relatives, by phone and email, and they say she always wants to know what they are doing.

The past three weeks of her trip have been the roughest.

"It's just as well we don't hear about her facing the rough weather until after it's happened," Mrs Chisholm said.

They have always been confident Jessica would complete her goal and are proud of her and cannot wait to see her again.

"But life is going to be boring when we come back home from Australia, " Mr Chisholm said.


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