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Aussie Singlehander Set to Finish

Considering that she slammed her boat into the side of a freighter during her shakedown cruise, Australian singlehander Jessica Watson, 16, has turned out to be one smart and tenacious sailor. As we write this, she is poised to complete her nonstop, unassisted solo circumnavigation tomorrow morning at Sydney — which is actually less than six hours from now — thus becoming the youngest person ever to succeed at that feat.

During her epic rounding, young Jessica has proved her mettle time and again.

© Jessica Watson

During the seven months since her departure last October 18 aboard her S&S 34 Ella’s Pink Lady, she has overcome many challenges, particularly with nasty weather. Her little sloop was knocked down six times and faced waves as high as 40 feet tall. And it appears that the weather gods are about to take one last whack at her, as the coastal forecast for this evening is for winds up to 45 knots and seas to 23 feet. Nevertheless, our bet is that she’ll pass through Sydney Heads, at the mouth of Sydney Harbor, at around 11:20 a.m. Aussie time, as planned. The crowds of dignitaries, well-wishers and press on site to greet her is expected to be as large as seen during the start of the Sydney-Hobart Race.

Having sailed roughly 23,000 miles east-about via the Great Capes of the Southern Ocean — plus a dog leg into the northern hemisphere for good measure — she will take the youngest-around-nonstop-unassisted crown from fellow Aussie Jesse Martin, who also sailed aboard an S&S 34, Lionheart.

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