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Jessica told to abandon quest

Buderim girl Jessica Watson has spent 210 days sailing solo around the world.
Buderim girl Jessica Watson has spent 210 days sailing solo around the world. Brett Wortman
SUNSHINE Coast sailor Jessica Watson and her parents have been urged to abandon her solo trip after investigations into this month's collision with a bulk carrier questioned her skills.

A report from Maritime Safety Queensland said Jessica probably dozed off before her vessel hit the 63,000 tonne cargo ship after she did not turn on a device that would have warned her of a potential collision.

The report also said Jessica could not produce a clear, plotted plan for her journey and had not developed a fatigue management plan.

Acting Premier Paul Lucas told News Ltd he believed, based on the report, that Jessica should abandon her journey.

But the state government has no power to stop the quest with the final decision being up to Jessica and her parents.

 Jessica's parents have expressed full confidence in the 16-year-old, who has won high praise from Coast yachting identities.

Jessica's boat Ella's Pink Lady and the Chinese coal carrier collided off Pt Lookout about 2.10am on September 9.

She had only left Mooloolaba the previous morning to sail to Sydney for the official start of her quest.

Maritime Safety Queensland found Jessica had set her vessel on autopilot and checked her radar about 2am, noting a target about six nautical miles away which she calculated was passing to her starboard side and well clear.

"Satisfied there were no immediate dangers (Jessica) put her head down for 10 minutes,'' the report said. Authorities believed the teenager then dozed off.

She soon heard the roar of a close vessel and went topside as the bulk carrier scrapped right along her yacht's port side.

Jessica radioed the skipper of the Silver Yang and received an apology and a promise that the damage bill would be paid.

Gold Coast marine operators have spent the past couple of weeks repairing Ella's Pink Lady with Jessica expected to test the boat in trials off the Gold Coast this week.


Jessica's team today issued a statement saying:

"Jessica Watson and her team wish to advise all of her supporters that she remains on track to achieve her goal of being the youngest to sail solo around the world.

"Further to today’s media reports, Jessica’s parents Roger and Julie confirmed receipt of an official letter prepared by Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) in regards to the incident with Ella’s Pink Lady and the bulk carrier Silver Yang.

"The MSQ letter was confidential and made some recommendations which have been adhered to, despite the fact that the incident occurred outside MSQ’s due restriction.

"It is disappointing that the MSQ letter has been leaked to the media.

"Jessica’s team wish to advise that they respect all of the maritime authorities and the important role they play in ensuring safety on the sea. Jessica has conducted herself in a highly professional manner right throughout the enquiry process. It is only right to expect a reciprocation of that level of professionalism.

"Jessica’s team will continue to treat the MSQ letter as confidential and, as such, will not be making any comment on the contents.

"MSQ has last week conducted inspections of the recent repairs to Ella’s Pink Lady and are satisfied with the safety of the vessel. The team is now undergoing final preparations on Ella’s Pink Lady on the Gold Coast, with Jessica planning to sail to Sydney later next week.

In earlier postings on her website, Jessica said she was looking forward to getting back onto the water, though she had expressed concern about some negative press.

"Even though most people's reaction has been positive and supportive, I've been a bit disappointed in some of the completely un-factual articles being printed,'' the teenager wrote.

"It's a little sad when even the basic facts become completely twisted! But it's all part of the fun and the only thing that's important right now is getting back on the water safely.''

More on this in Sunshine Coast Sunday

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