Past the 20,000 Mile Mark


By Amanda Lulham (The Daily Telegraph)

After a weekend of excitement - thanks to flyovers by her parents and brother and sister - it was back to the business of completing the final weeks of her odyssey without incident for teenager Jessica Watson yesterday.

And part of this will involve Jessica sailing what is believed will be a safer passage around Tasmania's southern tip instead of cutting across the Great Australian Bight between southern Australia and the top of the Apple Isle in upcoming weeks.

The longer route will minimise Jessica's time in Bass Strait, a stretch of water infamous for steep seas and potentially boat breaking conditions.

The Strait claimed six experienced sailors during a violent storm in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

As teenagers in NSW prepare to return to school next week, the young sailor will be preparing for what could be one of the toughest challenges of her seven-month trip - her final fortnight at sea in her attempt to become the youngest person to sail round the world solo and unassisted.

Jessica yesterday reached another extraordinary milestone - 20,000 nautical miles of sailing on her own.

"It's amazing to think we have sailed over 20,000 miles because it really does feel just like yesterday that we left Sydney," Jessica said.

"Twenty thousand is also double the total miles I'd sailed before the voyage which is also pretty cool. It's another great milestone to pass."

Jessica and her little 34-footer Ella's Pink Lady are due to arrive in Sydney, possibly on May 2, weather permitting, after sailing out of Sydney Heads on October 18 last year.

The teenager from the Sunshine Coast is expected to arrive to a hero's welcome when she arrives back on dry land just shy of her 17th birthday.

And unlike the Vegemite and crackers she ate to celebrate passing Cape Leeuwin off the southwestern tip of Western Australia at the weekend, Jessica will be able to celebrate with fresh food, home-made cake and her favourite food - chocolate for the first time in months.

The only fresh food the teenager has enjoyed in the last few months was the squid caught from the waters of the Southern Ocean.


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