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No world record for Aussie teen

6th May 2010
No world record for Aussie teen

Aussie teen Jessica Watson may have done a full lap of the globe in terms of longtitude, but an article on an American sailing website has caused a worldwide furore, claiming her circumnavigation won't be a record.

Sail World managing editor Rob Kotche said to qualify for official "around the world" status, a sailor must travel at least 21,600 nautical miles, according to the World Speed Sailing Record Council. Watson would come up short by about 2000 nautical miles because she did not go far enough north of the equator, having dived north briefly after leaving Australia and not deep into the North Atlantic like most circumnavigators have done to set previous records.

The article on the site starts by saying:

"We have been inundated with in the last two weeks with emails, texts, skypes and calls from sailors who have been concerned that there is much confusion in the mainstream media and as one navigator commented 'apples are not being compared to apples'  When Jessica Watson sails into Sydney Harbour next weekend, she will have survived a bruising voyage with bravery and skill, and be on her way to fame and fortune, but she will not have taken Jesse Martin's non-stop unassisted round-world record from him"

"The World Speed Sailing Record Council, like it or not, set this up as the requirement for the world record," Mr Kothe said.

"She just needed to sail further north into the Atlantic.

"All these people before her like Jesse Martin and Ken Gourlay, they sailed way up to France, a long way north, and not because they wanted to but that’s what the rules say.

"Jesse Martin sailed only about 70 miles [further than 21,600 nautical miles]. That’s what you have to do."

Mr Kothe said his story "was not a popular one". Other sailing websites and mainstream media have heaped scorn on the decision to point out the technicalities of Watson's supposed record and directed all manner of anger at Kothe for shining a light on the rule book.

Kothe said that he did not want to belittle her achievement, but pointed out that rules are rules.

"Listen, we don’t want to take away from what the kid’s done,", said Kothe, "I think she is a little hero, but it is one thing to be a hero and another to be a record holder."

Andrew Fraser, Watson's manager said that the conditions laid out by the WSSRC  before her voyage  were that a circumnavigation of the southern hemisphere required her ‘‘to start and return from the same port, cross all meridians of longitude and cross the equator’’.

‘‘She has ticked all of those boxes,’’ Mr Fraser said.

He said at no point had they claimed Watson would be breaking a world record, and that she was merely setting out to be the youngest to circumnavigate the globe unassisted, which she will have done.


Sydney Morning Herald analysis


Asked why Watson did not just sail further north over the equator, Fraser said: ‘‘It’s a southern hemisphere circumnavigation. The main requirements are to cross the equator into the northern hemisphere, which we’ve done.’’

The Queensland adventurer has survived multiple knock-downs in her yacht Ella’s Pink Lady during almost seven months alone at sea.

Published in News Update Team

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