Australian Round-the-world Sailing Teen Crashes

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 10 2009 1:02 PM

An Australian teenager's bid to become the youngest solo round-the-world sailor suffered a setback when she crashed just hours into a preliminary voyage on Wednesday.

Jessica Watson, 16, was on a 10-day test journey when she hit a 63,000-tonne freighter in a busy shipping lane off the coast of Queensland state, snapping her pink yacht's mast and damaging its rigging and hull.

But Watson vowed the incident would not stop her attempt to become the youngest person to sail non-stop around the world, solo and unassisted, scheduled to start this month.

"The whole incident gives me confidence -- wow, I can actually handle this," she said. "It could have happened to anyone ... I'm unlucky I suppose, but you also learn from it."

Australian transport safety officials are investigating the incident, which came at about 2:30am (1630 GMT Tuesday) despite Watson making radio contact with the ship's crew.

"All things considered the boat did come up well," she said. "The big thing for me is I came through the whole thing feeling confident ... it was a pretty scary incident."

Watson, who has been sailing since she was eight, hopes to surpass fellow Australian Jesse Martin, who completed the journey aged 18 in 1999.

Briton Mike Perham, 17, last month made an unsuccessful bid for Martin's record, after problems with his boat's rudder and other hitches forced him to pull into port three times.

He crossed the finish line after 156 days at sea, becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world with assistance.

Last month a Dutch court ruled 13-year-old Laura Dekkers could not embark on a solo round-the-world voyage and placed her in the care of social services.