The manager of teenage adventurer Jessica Watson has dismissed talk in sailing circles that she will complete her 200-day journey without achieving her goal – to become the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.
The website Sail-World has published an article saying when Watson arrives in Sydney she will not take Jesse Martin’s record nor will she have even been “around the world”.
Sail-World quoted John Reed, the secretary of the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), as saying Watson’s journey does not comply with the definition of around the world and bears no comparison with the achievement of Martin.
But when asked to confirm this was the case, Mr Reed told ABC News Online he made no such statement concerning Watson.
“The WSSRC does not know what route Jessica Watson has taken during her recent voyage,” he said.
“But the WSSRC course for a RTW (round the world) claim is clearly described in rule 26.1.a.”
The website has since removed Mr Reed’s comments and replaced it with a bold section highlighting the council’s rule, which states in part that:
“To sail around the world, a vessel must start from and return to the same point, must cross all meridians of longitude and must cross the equator.
“The shortest orthodromic track of the vessel must be at least 21,600 nautical miles in length calculated based on a perfect sphere.”
Watson will be more than 2,000 nautical miles short of an official record, according to Sail-World editor Rob Kothe.
But Watson’s manager, Andrew Fraser, has dismissed any suggestion she will not break a world record when she arrives in Sydney.
Mr Fraser says the concerns are ludicrous.
“Jess has ticked all those boxes, sailed under the four capes and crossed the equator twice, so in our opinion she will have sailed around the world non-stop, solo, unassisted and travelled almost 23,000 nautical miles in the process,” he said.
“If people want to get caught up with the technical component of a body that doesn’t recognise the record, that’s fine. We can accept that.”
Mr Kothe says by expert calculations, Watson will not break Martin’s record set in 1999 because she did not sail far enough north of the equator.
“We’ve discussed it with her PR team, who weren’t able to give us an exact number, but we gave them a figure of using those calculations of about 18,500 to 19,000 miles,” he said.
He says that leaves her short by 2,500 nautical miles.
“That’s what the WSSRC set up as the definition and that’s the basis on which our records are counted, and that’s the basis on which Jesse Martin sailed around the world,” Mr Kothe said.
“He sailed some 75 miles beyond the minimum distance. And to meet that record – and Jessica could possibly have been the fastest Australian ever to sail around the world, she’s been sailing very quickly – but to meet that, to go into the record books, the official record books of sailing, she would have to sail that distance.”
Mr Kothe says Watson will not be able to claim any officially recognised records.
“What she can claim and everyone will agree, is that she has done, she sailed amazingly well. She’s been a very tough little girl and all Australians should be proud of her,” he said.
Mr Fraser says he is annoyed about the negative publicity.
“I don’t think anybody can dent her campaign,” he said. “I’m just annoyed that people try and discredit the achievement.
“And that’s OK. We are quite used to that now. She’s had to overcome a lot worse adversity since she started the voyage, so I guess the only positive is that it’s come out now, we can address it and move on.”
He says the WSSRC do not recognise any voyages from sailors under the age of 18, so Watson could never have challenged Martin’s record in the context of the WSSRC criteria.
He says as a result of the WSSRC decision to discontinue recognition of age-related journeys, there is no official body to recognise Jessica’s feat and therefore no official body’s rules that need to be adhered to.
“Jessica actually approached the WSSRC early last year about it and the advice she was given was quite simple. They said they don’t recognise the records,” Mr Fraser told Neil Mitchell on Fairfax Radio.
“It was on her website before we left and everybody knew about it before she left and everything that’s been alluded to was on the website before she left.
“But the particular organisation you’re referring to have decided two weeks out to make some noise probably to drive some traffic to their website.”
Watson is expected to sail into Sydney Harbour on May 16, two days before her 17th birthday.