Friday, September 11, 2009

Teen Run Down by Ship

Local Australian news media have been full of solo sailor Jessica Watson's collision with the 63,000 tonne Japanese cargo vessel Silver Yang on her first night at sea.

The 34-foot Pink Lady, the boat in which Jessica hopes to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the world non-stop and unassisted, was escorted through the Southport Seaway by Water Police and marine rescue boats and will now undergo repairs after the collision snapped its mast and damaged the deck.

Jessica, after requesting vainly by radio that the ship change course to avoid her, and realising a collision was about to happen, had gone below and braced herself in her bunk. She was therefore not injured.

'I guess the good thing is that all considered, the boat did come up well and I suppose the big thing for me is that I came through the whole thing feeling confident,' Jessica told waiting press.

Scott Young, CEO of the Watson family's PR company, said it was 'fair to say it probably wasn't a fair fight.'

Ian Kiernan, founder of the world-wide 'Clean Up' campaign after successfully completed a solo around the world voyage in 1987, says he has had his own close call with an international tanker, which he avoided by taking evasive action.

Jessica's father says the schoolgirl was the victim of a 'hit and run', and described the encounter as 'David versus Goliath' and blamed the crew of the larger boat.

Mr Watson said his daughter’s communication equipment, including AIS transponder, radar enhancer and navigational equipment that inform other ships and ocean vehicles of her presence, were all operational.

Of her attempts to contact the ship by radio he said, 'When you can’t get someone to speak English it’s pretty poor when you are in Australian Waters.'

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is investigating and AMSA spokesman Mick Spinks says it is still unclear who was at fault in the accident.

Jessica told waiting media at the Gold Coast that she planned to get back on track with her plans to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world, as soon as possible.

Repairs will first have to be made on the yacht’s mast and bow which were substantially damaged.

The collision comes just weeks after a Dutch court put a 13-year-old girl under state care for two months to prevent her attempting a similar voyage.

The detractors were out in force as well, taking the opportunity to damn Jessica's attempt.

The chief executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation, Joe Tucci, said an age limit should be imposed on children undertaking high-risk efforts.

'The level of risk inherent in sailing around the world is very high, and I am not sure that at 16 you are able to completely understand the risks involved,' Mr Tucci said.

Phil Jones, chief executive of Yachting Australia, said he was concerned about the trend towards trying to set new milestones in sailing.

'One of those is to be the youngest to sail around the world,' he said. 'Now there's clearly a point where it will become an issue, because at some point there is an age where it's not safe or not possible to make this attempt.'

Jesse Martin holds the current record as the youngest solo sailor to circumnavigat the world non-stop and unassisted. 17-year-old Michael Perham did NOT break that record, as his circumnavigation was neither non-stop nor unassisted. He is however, the youngest to ever solo circumnavigate with stops and assistance. Jesse's record is the one that Jessica Watson has set her sights on.

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