Queensland’s Jessica Watson, 2011 Young Australian of the Year and certainly Australia’s most famous sailing teenager, made world headlines when she successfully sailed solo through the Southern Ocean and around the globe when just 16.
She returned to a hero's welcome and a movie star existence in Australia, where she is adored by the Australian public - even those who don't sail.
This week the busy 19 year old confirmed she will be sailing at the 2012 Telcoinabox Airlie Beach Race Week.
We talked to Jessica about what she has been doing recently.
Jessica said ‘Last year as Young Australian of the Year, I got to see a lot of Australia. We did school tours all over the country and it was a pretty chock-a-block year.
‘I met lots of amazing people and went to some amazing places and in such an intense program you do learn a lot about yourself. I think the big thing I took away from it was that I love sailing and I love what I am doing now but I also realised that I loved working with schools and working with different organizations. That’s why I am doing a university course with youth work/social work areas in mind.
‘For me it’s all about taking on challenges. I have written a book and I still can’t spell to save my life and although doing Dancing with the Stars, I am really not co-ordinated. But I still got, in a few weeks, up to some kind of speed.
‘Dancing with the Stars was quite an experience. It was completely out of my comfort zone - a high heeled challenge, which was hard. It was just one of those things I wanted to give a go. The last few months have been extraordinarily busy; at least it was physical because otherwise I would not have had time for a single bit of exercise.
‘In that same vein, last year we set ourselves another challenge, which was the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
‘You don’t have to be anyone special to do something in particular - just give it a shot. It is going to take hard work and that is a key, really, to everything in life.
‘Now I have started Uni which is exciting. I am studying sociology, part time, with the plan of heading into youth work and social work areas. Open Uni is so flexible and online makes it easier. There’s lots of reading and I absolutely love it.
‘I haven’t been out on the water in a while and it has been driving me nuts but now my dancing commitment is over, I am looking ahead, and to the Queensland Season of Sailing.
'Winter is such a great time to be sailing on the Queensland coast and it will be great to do some sailing with friends and enjoy the festivities at Airlie.
‘It has been one of those iconic Queensland regattas that I have always wanted to participate in and I am really looking forward to coming to Airlie Beach Race Week to enjoy the beautiful Whitsunday weather.
For more information on the 23rd annual Telcoinabox Airlie Beach Race Week, which runs from August 10 to 16, please visit the event website www.airliebeachraceweek.com