Growing up as a quiet, shy and dyslexic girl nobody, particularly Jessica herself, ever expected that she would become any sort of adventurer. That was until she was 11 years old and Jessica heard the story of Jesse Martin, who sailed solo around the world in 1999 aged just 18. The story inspired Jessica and soon after she resolved to sail around the world herself.

Endless adventures will tell you that the majority of any adventure is the preparation, advice that certainly proved true to Jessica’s voyage. Jessica spent years learning everything she could about ocean sailing, weather, storm tactics, navigation, first aid, mechanical and electrical repairs and the best ways to cope with solitude.

Gaining experience for the voyage lead to countless adventures. Jessica sailed the east coast of Australia, the Pacific, the Tasman and right down to the subantarctic islands. Along the way she learnt from countless experienced sailors, many of whom would go on to become part of the team that prepared her boat and supported the voyage around the world. Along the way sponsors also came on board to support the voyage.

Preparing the boat was yet another adventure as Jessica worked with a team of volunteers to strengthen the yacht and carefully kit it out with all the equipment she would need. The yacht that Jessica chose for the voyage was an S&S (Sparkman and Stephens) 34, a classic design from the famous Sparkman & Stephens. A yacht known firstly for its seaworthiness, toughness and track record. And a boat capable of consistent speeds that Jessica could easily handle.

Before departing on the voyage itself Jessica experienced a serious setback when she collided with a 63, 000 ton ship while on a sea trail. Ella’s Pink Lady (Jessica’s yacht) suffered extensive damage and critics of the voyage were given fuel to feed their augments that Jessica shouldn’t be allowed to set off on the voyage. Jessica herself used the experience to prove that she could remain cool under pressure and learnt from the incident.

The route around the world that Jessica chose is a traditionally recognised path and distance for ‘around the world sailors’. Starting and finishing in Sydney, crossing all lines of longitude and rounding a point in the northern hemisphere the voyage covered approximately 23, 000 nautical miles. Significant landmarks along the way included the notorious Cape Horn, the southern tip of the African continent and the ferocious Southern Ocean. Jessica also faced challenges such as 50ft waves, 80 knot winds and isolation.

More detail of the voyage can be found on in Jessica’s blog entries and her videos journal.

On returning to Australia, Jessica was constantly asked what she would do to challenge herself next. Jessica answered that by finishing school, getting her driver’s licence and building her racing skills. The move into racing and faster sailing led Jessica to the iconic Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

In 2011, Jessica skippered a crew of ten youth sailors and with an average age of 19 they became the youngest team to compete in the races history. Sailing the Yacht Ella Bache’s Another Challenge and guided by expert coaches, the team under took an extensive training programme, including a three month full time training window. Training included practicing manoeuvres, sea survival training, fitness sessions, team building exercises and a practice run from Sydney to Hobart and back.

Come race day the team proved to be competitive finishing the race after a gurgling 4 days at sea second in their division. A result that the team was very proud of in such an experienced fleet. Jessica used the project to build on her sailing experience and develop leadership skills.

See the following links for a little more detail on the project;

http://www.jessicawatson.com.au/news/jessica-announces-another-challenge

https://www.facebook.com/AnotherChallenge2011

Nowadays, in-between study and other projects Jessica races skiffs, dinghies and a whole range of yachts including the 100ft super maxi Loyal, on which she completed the 2013 Rolex Sydney to Hobart finishing second across the line. She also enjoys sailing classic wooden yachts and anything she can get her hands on to continue building her skills and experience, as well as having a great time on the water!

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