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Jessica Watson's boss plans to sail beside her at Cape Horn - and wave

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 2 Jan 2010
Jessica at sea in her lolly pink boat Ella’s Pink Lady SW
As Australian 16-year-old solo sailor Jessica Watson was celebrating after passing through her first Southern Ocean gale successfully, she received the news that her old boss is flying to South America with the intention of sailing around the Horn, and, hopefully being able to get close enough to wave to her.

Jessica is currently heading for Cape Horn in her attempt to be the youngest solo non-stop unassisted sailor to complete a circumnavigation.

Jessica was a dinghy instructor for Mooloolaba sailing academy, Sunshine Sailing Australia, and has long admired her one-time boss, John Bankart.

Bankart's own voyage from South America to Antarctica will take 26 days and take him, he hopes, within waving distance of the teen solo sailor. It will also involve his first rounding of the famously dreaded Cape Horn.

'Jess is up and she’s going and she’s doing a great job. Our aim is to see her in the flesh and speak to her via the radio,' John told the Sunshine Coast Daily.

'I think at that point of the journey – one of the toughest – it will be a real morale boost for Jess. As for me, well, I’m excited about rounding Cape Horn. It’s risky, but it’s every sailor’s dream.'

John also said he was proud of Jess’s courage and believed she would achieve her dream.

'Jess is one-in-a-million. A very special girl,' John told the Sunshine Coast's daily newspaper. 'She aims high but she has her eye on the prize. I’ve never doubted Jess for a moment.'

It's not the only 'company' that Jessica is able to boast recently. Dilip Donde, a Commander in the Indian Navy is fast catching Jessica in a much bigger yacht - his trip is sponsored by the Indian Navy, and, if completed will be the first complete solo circumnavigation by an Indian national. They have been staying in touch by HF radio as he draws near.

Jessica is expected to round the Horn in the second week in January, a little before the best time of the year, which is in February. However, Jessica has then to round the Cape of Good Hope and cross the Indian Ocean while using as much of the more benign summer weather as possible.

Meanwhile in Marina del Ray in Los Angeles, Abby Sunderland, Californian teenager just five months younger than Jessica is planning her own departure in the next few days.

Both girls are attempting to become the youngest round world solo non-stop and unassisted sailor, to break Australian Jesse Martin's 1999 record.

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