Solo sailor, 16, crashes first day out

BRISBANE TIMES
Last updated 10:20 09/09/2009
Jessica Watson
By PAUL HARRIS, SMH
JESSICA WATSON: A crash on her first day out of port was not an auspicious start for the youngster's plan to sail solo around the world.

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Australian schoolgirl skipper Jessica Watson, 16, has crashed her yacht on the first leg of her solo around-the-world voyage.

Watson's sloop, Ella's Pink Lady, hit a merchant ship near Stradbroke Island about 2.30am, less than 24 hours after leaving the Sunshine Coast for Sydney.

The Buderim schoolgirl contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which was monitoring her journey, and was told to turn her motor on and head back to Southport on the Gold Coast.

The teenager was not injured in the collision, but her yacht's mast and bow were substantially damaged.

AMSA spokeswoman Tracy Jiggins said the 16-year-old collided with the merchant ship about 15 nautical miles, or about 28 kilometres, east of Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island. It is understood the bulk carrier did not stop after the collision.

"Her parents contacted the our rescue co-ordination centre which advised Watson to turn her motor back on and head to Stradbroke Island," Ms Jiggins said.

It is understood Watson later agreed to travel to Southport on the Gold Coast.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will also investigate the crash.

Watson left Mooloolaba Wharf on Tuesday on a week-long test run ahead of her world record attempt to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Brett Harrison said conditions in the area at the time of the crash were relatively calm.

"There would have been come showers around earlier this morning. The wind weren't particularly strong. It doesn't look particularly bad, apart from a few showers, Mr Harrison told ABC Radio.

The attempt has divided public opinion, with parents and child safety groups labelling it irresponsible and fraught with danger.

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