Disaster for Watson's bid to become youngest circumnavigator
A schoolgirl sailor, hoping to become the youngest solo circumnavigator, has become the victim of an alleged ‘hit and run’ collision between her 10m sloop and a 63,000 tonne freighter.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson’s yacht Ella’s Pink Lady and a Japanese cargo vessel Silver Yang collided in shipping lanes 15 nautical miles off North Stradbroke Island off Queensland, Australia.
Her father Roger Watson has described the encounter as”David versus Goliath” and blamed the crew of the larger boat.
Just over 24 hours earlier, Mr Watson, Jessica’s mother Julie and their three other children had bid Jessica “bon voyage” from Mooloolaba.
Trouble struck after Jessica made several attempts to avoid the Sliver Yang, including repeated radio requests, but ultimately braced herself in her bunk for impact.
Mr Watson said the silver Yang disappeared off AIS tracking, moments after the collision.
“We were following them on the internet and then it just disappeared like they had switched it off,” Mr Watson said.
“It was a David versus Goliath encounter and Jess has handled herself remarkably.”
He agreed with fellow Sunshine Coast solo yachtswoman’s Margaret Williams comments that action is needed.
“I heard Margie Williams say that nothing will be done until two large ships collide and then only when it becomes a disaster will something be done.”
Mr Watson said his daughter’s communication equipment, including AIS transponder, radar enhancer and navigational equipment were all operational.
He said the real question should be why the crew of the Silver Yang did not see her.
“If they had been keeping a proper watch they would have seen her.”
Mr Watson said his anger and frustration is largely over the Silver Yang failing to stop after the incident.
He said Jessica had spent half an hour trying to talk to an English speaking crew member on the Silver Yang.
“When you can’t get someone to speak English it’s pretty poor when you are in Australian Waters.”
“We were watching the press conference from a safe distance and she came away smiling,just as she does.
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.