Sydney/Hobart officials turn down Watson

Sydney to Hobart officials have insisted that their rules cannot be bent, after solo circumnavigator Jessica Watson was refused entry to the race.

Under safety rules introduced after six crew died in the 1998 race, Watson, 17, is too young to compete in the classic race.

She had been planning on skippering a crew of fellow teenagers and young sailors across the Bass Strait.

And commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Garry Linacre admitted he wanted Watson to take part, but an exemption could not be arranged.

Mr Linacre said: ‘I would very much like to see Jessica participate in the race and we will do everything at the club to help her qualify and participate, but it will need to be 2011 after she’s turned 18.

‘The notice for race is a legal document and somebody that didn’t qualify would be subject to protest from other competitors.

‘It’s not possible to change the rule from a legal point of view.’

Watson has taken the rejection in good spirits. She said: ‘It is kind of weird not to be allowed to go after sailing round the world, but there is so much to organise, we need all the time we can get.’

Her manager, Andrew Fraser, added: ‘You need time to be able to prepare for it anyway.

‘Jess is totally comfortable and has no issue with it and looks forward to doing it next year.’

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