by Jeni Bone
Jessica Watson was swamped with local media today, launching her pink yacht, 'Another Challenge' sponsored by Ella Bache from Gold Coast City Marina today.
Some of the crew
Champagne broke across the bow as Pippa Hallas blessed her and her crew for the training and the event itself, the 2011 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. With that, the slender yacht was gently dropped into the Coomera River from the 50 tonne lift to the general approval of media and guests there for the occasion.
The Young Australian of the Year will skipper the youngest crew to ever compete in the iconic event. The crew of 10, all of whom will be 21 or younger, will have an average age of just 19.
Pippa Hallas and Jessica Watson wet the bow
The minimum age to compete in the event is 18 and Jessica reached this landmark on 18 May.
Watson said she was excited at the prospect of dealing with the challenges and thrill of competitive sailing during the Sydney to Hobart with a crew. 'We are all great sailors and have a lot of skills to offer to the group. When you're all on the same page, pulling together with the same goal, that is all that matters.'
Jessica wants to inspire other youth around Australia, to strive to achieve. Her yacht, a Sydney 38, has been painted by John Hallas in her trademark pink.
Another Challenge lowered into the water
The Sydney 38 has a long and illustrious history in Australian yachting. Originally purchased by Lou Abrahams in 2000, Lou raced her in four of his 44 entries in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race – winning the Sydney 38 division several times to complement his previous two overall victories in 1983 and 1989.
In 2004 Lou supported the second owner, Chris Lewin, as he assembled the (then) youngest crew ever to do the Rolex Sydney Hobart. This 2004 team was composed of ten Melbourne University students and had an average age of 21 on race day.
Since 2004, Chris has campaigned another Challenge in three other Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Races – most recently finishing second in the Sydney 38 division by 29 seconds in 2010.
In March 2011, Chris handed the boat over to its newest and youngest skipper – Jessica Watson.
Come October, the young crew of Another Challenge will embark on an intensive 12 week campaign leading up to the event, actually undertaking a Sydney to Hobart prior to the event. The crew seek to be competitive in the Sydney 38OD division and compete for handicap honours, depending on weather patterns. Another famous young name joining the crew is Mike Perham from the UK, another solo circumnavigator.
Young but experienced the crew of Another Challenge
The team will be coached by Chris Lewin, who has skippered another Challenge in 4 x RolexSydney Hobart’s – most notably in 2004 where he led the (previous) youngest crew of Melbourne Uni students to a third in the Sydney 38 division, and most recently in 2010 wherehe achieved second in the division by 29 seconds.
In August, Jessica made a good start to her 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart campaign, winning the Sydney 38 division of the Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race aboard Ella Bache Another Challenge.
At the Gold Coast City Marina this morning, Watson thanked her sponsors, Ella Bache, Macquarie Life Active, Deloitte and Musto. She was introduced by 'Black Joe' Akacich, managing director of Australian Marine Enterprises who was voluble in his praise for her skills, her manner and commitment to sailing.
'This lady is serious about the sport, and we know she is getting people enthusiastic about sailing. Which is something the blue blazer and gold button brigade need to sit up and take notice.'
Several other crew members were introduced: Leigh Thorne, Lisa Chamberlain, and Sean Lindsell - all of whom have extensive sailing experience. In Lisa's case, she is a veteran of the 2011 Fremantle to Bali Race and 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart. Last year, Lisa was awarded the Rolex Sydney Hobart Rani Trophy for outstanding seamanship - the first female and youngest ever person to receive it.
'I am confident our crew is able to handle ourselves out there. We are realistic about the challenges. We know it's the toughest race in the world. We are going to be mindful and take all precautions onboard, like being hooked up, carrying our EPIRBs at all times, practising a lot and wearing the right gear, and sunscreen!'
Ella Bache is sponsoring the boat and also supplying its Great Sportsbloc to all crew for maximum protection.
More at www.anotherchallenge.com