Teen vows to sail solo round world

On her family's property in Central Otago before she attempts to sail single-handed around the...
On her family's property in Central Otago before she attempts to sail single-handed around the world is 15-year-old Jessica Watson (seated), with (from left), her grandmother Margaret Chisholm, aunt Wendy Taylor, and grandfather Gordon Chisholm. Photo by Rosie Manins.
Lowburn residents Gordon and Margaret Chisholm have more reason than most to be proud of their 15-year-old granddaughter, as well as reason to be worried.

Jessica Watson, who lives in Australia, is aiming to be the youngest person to sail around the world non-stop, solo, and unassisted.

The eight-month feat will take her 22,000 nautical miles around the globe on a 10m yacht.

This week, Jessica has been staying with her family in Central Otago, after having spent time sailing south of Bluff to gain experience on the Southern Ocean.

Despite being born in Australia, Jessica's family roots are firmly planted in New Zealand.

Her grandparents, Mr and Mrs Chisholm, were both born in Dunedin, and Jessica's mother and father were born and raised in Dunedin and Wellington respectively.

Jessica's aunt, Wendy Taylor, who now lives at Cromwell, said the family considered Jessica to be a New Zealander.

"She's got New Zealand and Australian passports, and if she breaks the world record we'll definitely claim her as our own," she said.

Mr Chisholm said when he first heard of his granddaughter's plan to sail around the world about three years ago, he thought it was a goal far from reach.

"We thought, there's a fair few hurdles she has to jump before it becomes a reality.

"But now she's jumping them all and it's not too far off," he said.

Despite the challenge ahead of Jessica, Mr Chisholm said if anyone could do it, Jessica could.

"We are more than satisfied she's up to the task . . . the way she's gone about organising it over the last few years has been very impressive. We're quite confident that if it's possible, she'll do it," he said.

Mr Chisholm said most other family members considered "water to be very wet".

Sailing was not in the blood, he said.

Jessica plans to set off in November, when she will be 16.

She will return home before her 17th birthday, in May 2010.

If successful, she will break the record for the youngest person to sail the world alone, which is held by fellow Australian Jesse Martin, who did so in 1999 during which he celebrated his 18th birthday.

Jessica said she started sailing at the age of 8, when her parents sent her along to a sailing school.

At the time, she was afraid to put her feet in the water, although by amassing time on and around boats she relaxed and became more confident.

"It's all built up from there, and about three years ago I decided that [sailing around the world] was what I wanted to do," she said.


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