Jessica Watson warned after collision: do not sail
By Michael Crutcher and Greg Stolz
September 26, 2009 12:00am
VIDEO: Solo sailor tests yacht
Qld schoolgirl Jessica Watson
will test her repaired yacht today, before she sets sail around the world.
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Solo sailor tests yacht
Qld schoolgirl Jessica Watson
will test her repaired yacht today, before she sets sail around the...
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Jessica Watson told to abort her solo trip around the world after a damning report of her skills
TEENAGE sailor Jessica Watson
and her parents have been given a clear warning by authorities to call off the 16-year-old's solo trip around the world after a damning assessment of her skills.
has obtained a copy of the report into a collision
between Jessica's yacht and a Chinese bulk carrier this month which shows basic problems led her to a potentially fatal crash off southeast Queensland
Maritime Safety Queensland
inspectors concluded the Sunshine Coast teenager:
* Most probably
dozed off before her vessel hit and was dragged alongside the 63,000-tonne cargo ship.
* Did not
turn on a device that would have warned her of a potential collision.
* Could not
produce a clear, plotted plan for her journey.
* Had not
developed a fatigue management plan.
* Kept a log
with "irregular latitude and longitude entries".
Acting Premier Paul Lucas
last night said Jessica should abandon her attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo non-stop and unassisted around the world.
"I'll be honest. On this evidence I don't think she's ready to do this," Mr Lucas said.
"We all admire this young woman's spirit, but sailing solo around the world is a demanding and dangerous venture. It's not a task anyone young or old should undertake lightly.
"The decision about whether she undertakes this trip is one for Jessica and, ultimately, her parents.
"But I'll say this much - just because our maritime safety
experts may not have any powers to stop her, it doesn't mean they don't have a duty to talk to her parents about any concerns and how they could be addressed.
"Our authorities have officially cautioned her and her parents and they've sat down with them to talk about Jessica's plans.
"The fact is the ball is in their court," Mr Lucas said.
"But it's clear to me, and I think most Queenslanders, that no record
is worth putting a young life at risk. I'm the first to admit, I'm not an expert in this area.
"But this is something I'd rather be proved wrong about, than right."
Jessica's parents were last night defiant, saying they had full confidence in their daughter as she prepared to sail her mended yacht from the Gold Coast to Sydney
to officially start the voyage.
Jessica's mother Julie confirmed the family
had received an official letter from Maritime Safety Queensland but that they would not be deterred.
"They have made some recommendations and we have followed them," she said.
"I was confident beforehand and I'm even more confident now."
Ella's Pink Lady has been on the Gold Coast for more than two weeks undergoing repairs
from the damage caused when it and Chinese coal carrier Silver Yang collided off Point Lookout at 2.10am on September 9.
Jessica was less than 24 hours into her trip from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney
to start her journey. The collision dismasted her yacht and forced Jessica to head
to Southport for repairs
The report by MSQ was compiled after detailed discussions with Jessica. The Courier-Mail
has shown the report to maritime experts who said the findings reflected poorly on Jessica's skills.
"It's like driving your car at night without your lights on," one expert said. "When you're sailing solo around the world, you need to know where you're going.
"All the equipment
is there for a reason - your safety - and it needs to be used properly. There's no room for error."
The MSQ report found Jessica had set her vessel on autopilot
and checked her radar
about 2am, noting "a target at about six nautical miles" and "determined the vessel was passing to starboard well clear and not in a crossing situation" before going below deck
"Satisfied there were no immediate dangers, (Jessica) put her head
down for 10 minutes," the report says.
"The master (Jessica) ... may have dosed (sic) off. The master recollects the roar of a close vessel and went topside as the boat scraped port side to port side."
The report says that after the vessels separated, with Jessica's yacht dismasted, she contacted the skipper
of the Silver Yang by radio
and received an apology and a pledge to pay for the damages.
But the report also found problems with the alarms fitted on Jessica's yacht to alert her to nearby vessels including a device that "was not enabled that night".
It also found Jessica could not produce "course plots on paper charts
or waypoints on the plotter" or a "fatigue management plan for single-handed conning".
authorities have analysed legislation in an attempt to prevent Ms Watson from embarking on the gruelling test. But the laws indicate that Jessica - who will become a legal
adult when she turns 17 next May - needs only the approval of her parents to start the journey.
After the collision, Premier Anna Bligh said Jessica should continue on, saying "you don't take on a big dream like this and (baulk) at the first hurdle".
But The Courier-Mail
understands high-ranking government
officials were alarmed by the facts of the collision once they became known.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Pierce
Jessica Watson warned after collision: do not sail | Queensland | News.com.au