Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad/Oracle Supplier

Lies, Damn Lies, and PR Spin

by Bob Fisher on 7 May 2010
Bob Fisher .. .
I stand in awe at the achievement of Jessica Watson. That one so young has had the fortitude to withstand the elements of the oceans alone and unaided for the 200 plus-day duration of a voyage through some of the most hostile waters on the planet, should be more than enough to warrant our appreciation of her seamanship and raw guts. This is no easy voyage. It is one whose demands would leave the majority of us carefully looking the other way and making excuses as we exited stage left.

It has been a truly wondrous performance by this Australian teenager, who will sail into Sydney Harbour to complete her loop. It has been a sailing performance par excellence, one of which she can be justifiably proud and we should applaud it for what it is, and not for what it is not.

It might seem at this time of rejoicing, harsh to point out that Jessica has not sailed a course that is approved by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the international body that approves world records, as it did in the case of Jesse Martin.

Rules must be observed in sporting challenges and there are few greater than the circumnavigation of the globe under sail, let alone as an unaided single-hander. Jesse did and sailed more than the required 21,600 miles, but, under the WSSR rules, Jessica has not. She cannot therefore claim to have beaten Jesse’s record, as her publicist insists.

There never has been a better example of the vast difference between fact and public relations perspective than this. It is an almost unfathomable chasm. On the one hand, the facts are indisputable, while on the other those facts interfere with the public relations objective.

Distortion is the name of the game, and all in pursuit of large swathes of cash. There are concerns that truth is being sacrificed on the altar of Mammon by the actions of Andrew Fraser of 5 Oceans Media.

One outstanding example is that while there is extensive questioning of the performance claims across the broad spectrum of the media, there is a total absence of these from any of News Limited’s outlets – print or television – perhaps because the Murdoch empire has a reported A$700,000 investment in her exclusive story.

The indisputable facts that have been carefully calculated would indicate that all the requirements of a genuine round-the-world record passage have NOT been met.

True, Jessica has sailed alone and unassisted, passed under the four required capes, but the orthodromic route she has taken does not total the necessary 21,600 miles that is equivalent of the girth of the Earth at the equator.

And that, Andrew Fraser, is a requirement for the world record you were claiming for Jessica, and which would put her in line to beat Jesse Martin’s record.

One must compare apples with apples – Jesse did conform to all the requirements - and no matter whether Mr. Fraser determines that the WSSR will not recognise Jessica’s performance because she is under eighteen years of age, on good authority he would be informed that the Council would not recognise it if she were over the age of majority because she hasn’t sailed the length of course demanded.

It is Fraser’s sparing use of the truth which is staggering. This is presumably because he seeks to further improve Jessica’s deeds. That is something he hardly needs to do.

She is far braver and more accomplished than any girl of her age and that perhaps is what should be stressed, not that she is beating Jesse Martin’s record, because she is not going to do that.

Maybe the fault was that of her team, which failed to calculate the distance she would sail on her proposed route before she set off.

Had it done so, it would have been easy to insert a waypoint in the Pacific that she could use and exceed the required distance, but her team failed to observe that requirement. It seemed to conclude that going above the equator would suffice.

Ever since which, Fraser has been on the back foot and fighting hard to correct this basic error by tweaking her blog, which throughout has been two or more days behind actuality – maybe Fraser has been re-writing it.

They are generally impeccably written; not something one might expect from a sixteen-year old under the stress of sailing alone around the world. They are in contrast to her latest blog, no doubt inspired by the goading of Fraser.

It reads:

'I don't normally bother addressing critics because someone's always going to be saying something, no matter what I say or do. But I thought I'd have my 2 bobs worth on these claims that I haven't 'officially' sailed around the world.

'Call me immature but I've actually been having a bit of a giggle over the whole thing. If I haven't been sailing around the world, then it beats me what I've been doing out here all this time! Yes it's a shame that my voyage won't be recognized by a few organizations because I'm under 18, but it really doesn't worry me.

'I mean there's millions, properly billions of people who still don't believe in global warming, so I'm more than happy to settle for a few people going against the tide and declaring that mine hasn't been an official circumnavigation. Well I think I've wasted more than enough time on the whole petty debate - so moving on!'

Look at this carefully and it is easy to see where it deviates from the previously 'impeccable' style. Deliberate?
Very possibly.

Jessica, please understand that no one is any way deprecating your achievement, apart maybe your publicist by continuously contributing untruths to the media.

We are not as stupid as he would assume. He was repeatedly telling the media that you are to better Jesse Martin’s record when he knows full well that you are not.

He tells us that you have sailed more than 23,000 miles when the only evidence for this is from your logged miles and not, as required in any record attempt, between waypoints that you have passed during the voyage. None of this does anything to enhance your stunning performance – you would be better off without him.

Most certainly the world’s media would be.

On that day when you enter Sydney Harbour, two days before your seventeenth birthday, the world’s eyes will be upon you and, I am assured, Jesse will be there to meet you – that’s the sailor and sportsman that he is. Enjoy the day, there will probably never be one to match it. Milk it for all it’s worth. Yours is a very special effort and you deserve the adulation that you will receive. I can only add mine to all the congratulations you will receive.



Bob Fisher is the author of 32 books, he is a regular contributor to and columnist for many international newspapers, magazines and websites. His specialist areas are Round the World Sailing, the America's Cup and Olympic sailing.
Protector - 660 x 82Zhik Yachting 660x82Southern Spars - 100

Related Articles

America's Cup - Images of Emirates Team NZ two-up on the Waitemata
Emirates Team NZ were sailing on the Waitemata yesterday with just a couple of weeks left Emirates Team NZ were sailing on the Waitemata yesterday with just a couple of weeks left before they head for Bermuda and the 35th America's Cup. The cycle-grinders were two per side for the trip down the harbour making the transitions from gybe to gybe very interesting - and almost imperceptible.
Posted today at 12:35 am
America's Cup - Late Protocol change further stacks deck against Kiwis
Five America's Cup teams have dealt themselves a new hand with a new Protocol Change published three days ago. Five America's Cup teams have dealt themselves a new hand with a new Protocol Change published three days ago. On the face of it, the change - to allow 23 days training against each other repairs an omission by the Commissioner for the America's Cup. But it is the timing of the move that is surprising
Posted on 22 Mar
Vestas 11th Hour Racing launch Volvo Ocean Race campaign
Vestas are returning for a second edition, after launching their 2017-18 campaign in partnership with 11th Hour Racing Vestas 11th Hour Racing will be led by the American duo of Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. The team are the fourth to announce for the upcoming edition, which begins on 22 October, and they will use the race to promote a sustainability message around the world.
Posted on 21 Mar
America's Cup - Ben and Barry on Bermuda docking technique
Another in the series from the Bangin' The Corner, this time offering some pointers on docking technique Another in the series from the Bangin' The Corner, this time offering some pointers on docking technique, after the British America's Cup team had a close encounter with their mobile dock in Bermuda. Here's a few tips on how to dock the easy way.
Posted on 21 Mar
Volvo Ocean Race - Dongfeng has an offshore hit-out - Video
In this video Dongfeng go offshore in a big breeze for the first real work-out of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. After a one million euro re-fiit procedure in Lisbon, the Dongfeng Race Team crew gave their boat its first real test ahead of 2017-18 – and it looks better than ever! In this video Dongfeng go offshore in a big breeze for the first real work-out of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.
Posted on 20 Mar
America's Cup - Ouch ... AC50 style - Video
Land Rover BAR's re-entry to their marina in the Royal Dockyard in Bermuda does not appear to have gone has planned Land Rover BAR's re-entry to their marina in the Royal Dockyard in Bermuda does not appear to have gone has planned on Friday. In this clip the British America's Cup team appear to cop a gust a the wrong moment from the wrong direction and accelerate as they should be slowing down. Turn your audio to hear the crunch.
Posted on 18 Mar
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ say they have learned 2013 lessons
Time is the enemy of Team New Zealand as much as the prying eyes of five America's Cup rivals Time is the enemy of Team New Zealand as much as the prying eyes of five America's Cup rivals as they countdown to what they expect to be 'brutal' racing in Bermuda. The Kiwi syndicate are adamant they have learned from the painful lessons of the 2013 regatta in San Francisco where they pioneered foiling but ran out of development
Posted on 18 Mar
Volvo Ocean Race - Top female sailors join Dongfeng Race Team
The two women bring a wealth of experience to Charles Caudrelier’s team, including a total of five Olympic Games Dongfeng Race Team have selected Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou for their Volvo Ocean Race campaign in 2017-18 – a move that confirms the impact of a rule change introduced by the race to encourage mixed male-female crews. The two women bring a wealth of experience to Charles Caudrelier’s team, including a total of five Olympic Games and a host of world titles.
Posted on 16 Mar
Intrepid skipper and Star World Champion Bill Ficker dies at 89
William P 'Bill' Ficker, best known as the skipper of Intrepid in the controversial 1970 America's Cup has died William P 'Bill' Ficker, best known as the skipper of Intrepid in the controversial 1970 America's Cup has died at the age of 89 years. One of USA's most distinguished sailors, Bill Ficker was a winner of the America's Cup, a Star World Champion and the winner of the Congressional Cup.
Posted on 15 Mar
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ sailing in 25kt winds on Waitemata
The team set off about noon with winds being recorded at Bean Rock as averaging 19kts and gusting 25kts. Emirates Team New Zealand headed out for another training session in Auckland in winds that are at the top end of the range for racing in the AC50's in the America's Cup Regatta. The team set off about noon with winds being recorded at Bean Rock as averaging 19kts and gusting 25kts.
Posted on 15 Mar