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Jessica Watson blames instruments for bulk carrier collision

by Nancy Knudsen on 28 Sep 2009
Starboard side of Jessica’s boat showing hull scrape and rigging damage SW
Australian 16 year old Jessica Watson has responded strongly to the Maritime Safety's Queensland's (MSQ) damning assessment of the incident where her yacht was involved with a collision with a bulk carrier off the Queensland coast recently.

The incident occurred on September 9th at approximately 2.15am. The teen sailor, who wants to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the world non-stop and unassisted, was on her first overnight sail in her yacht Ella's Pink Lady when she hit, or was hit by the 63,000 tonne bulk carrier Silver Yang.

Although it is unclear whether the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) are pursuing the case because it occurred outside Australian territorial waters, Jessica said that she preferred 'not to go into details because they are still concluding investigations into the incident.'

Jessica has told Sail-World.com that at the time of the collision both the AIS and Radar were running and that both systems had been tested earlier that day by other ships.

'I considered two independent systems to be significant. I was below for a maximum of ten minutes before the collision. The fact that the systems in place didn’t warn me of the ship has resulted in our team investigating possible electronic faults, whether the alarms were loud enough etc.

'I’ll only depart again once these problems are completely resolved and with extra precautions in place, such as much louder alarms and another Blipper radar reflector.'

While MSQ stated in their report that Jessica could not produce a sail plan for her journey, she said today that 'A sail passage plan had been written up for the delivery voyage from Mooloolaba to Sydney.

'But the intent of the voyage was for me to spend a week at sea to test all the systems, hence the route was bound to change. All the appropriate material such as paper and electronic charts, appropriate publications, weather forecasts etc were on board.'

'We intended to clear the coast before heading to a way point close to Lord Howe Island, all dependant on wind direction. AMSA have since been able to provide us with further information on shipping lanes and busy shipping areas.'

In response to MSQ's statement that Jessica did not have a sleep managment plan, she said, 'We’ve put a lot of time and effort into researching sleep management and all the other aspects of the voyage.'

Jessica admits that her sailing experience has already been questioned, but she adds, 'I’ve only got to this point thanks to the experienced team of sailors who I have sailed with or who know me well. I will only be continuing with their full confidence, which I have.

'Over the last few years gaining offshore sailing experience, I have been learning all that I can from experienced skippers, studying Yachtmaster courses and speaking to sailors and adventurers who have completed similar voyages. Of course the collision has made us all ask these questions again. As you well know, there are many incidences of professional skippers and sailors having similar collisions all ages and genders.'

Don McIntyre, who donated the yacht to Jessica for her journey, has supplied the following as Jessica's sailing qualifications:

Jessica has been issued with the following RYA course completion certificates:

RYA/ISAF Offshore Safety course (ISAF SR 6.01) Cat zero
RYA Diesel Engine course
RYA Radar course

YAs issues Certificates of Competence on the advice of accredited YA instructors
Jessica holds YAs Safety and Sea Survival certificate

OMTC issues Certificates of Competence for Apply First Aid HTLF301B
Jessica holds this certificate

Jessica also holds IMO compliant Elementary First Aid Table A VI/1-3 STCW95

She also has the Yachtmaster Ocean theory certificates and about 6000 coastal and 6000 ocean miles experience, has her radio operator’s licence and all of the other required certificates.

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