Determined to go on: Jessica Watson.
Determined to go on: Jessica Watson. Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily

Jessica says she is tough enough

SOLO sailor Jessica Watson will defy calls for her to abandon plans to sail around the world despite mounting fears she may not be properly prepared for the ordeal.

The Sunshine Coast teenager's parents have revealed the record-breaking attempt will go ahead on schedule and hit out at media claims a Maritime Services Queensland (MSQ) report was highly critical of Jessica following a collision between her yacht Ella's Pink Lady and a 63,000-tonne cargo vessel off North Stradbroke Island on September 9.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily, Jessica's mother Julie Watson expressed disappointment at the leaking of what she claimed was actually a personal letter to her and her husband Roger.

The media report which has angered the family claimed the document suggested Jessica had probably “dosed (sic) off” and was not operating alarm warning systems before a collision with Chinese cargo ship Silver Yang.

“It was not a report - it does not even have a report (included).

“It is just a private letter addressed to her parents, not even to the master of the vessel.

“It covered things like checking the lights and (general) safety issues.

“We met the guy and we said we have done all these things.”

Media reports said 16-year-old Jessica and her parents had “been delivered a clear warning by authorities” to call off plans to become the youngest person to sail solo non-stop and unassisted around the world in light of the “damning assessment”.

Based on that report, Queensland's deputy premier Paul Lucas waded into the debate and urged the teenager to abandon her plans.

Mrs Watson said the collision with the cargo ship was out of MSQ's hands as it was a federal issue and even the federal Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) acknowledged it happened outside its 12-mile limit.

“The MSQ jurisdiction is to make sure a vessel is licensed and fit for the sea,” she said.

“They have cleared the boat - in writing.”

The ATSB has advised the family not to publicly discuss the specifics contained in the document until it has concluded its own investigation.

Mrs Watson said she had “no idea” why information was leaked and joked the Gold Coast marina where the boat was being repaired was yesterday “surrounded” by media.

“It's disappointing; I think it's personal, but we have done so much work and planning,” she said.

“The premier Anna Bligh has been so supportive.

“She said after the collision Jessica has the guts and made of tough stuff.

“And the child safety man (minister Phil Reeves) said the same. It's great to have government support.”

Mrs Watson said Jessica and her support crew had shrugged off the upset.

“Jess has been really good, I take my hat off to her.

“We are all too busy to think about it.

“But she would have got off the boat a long time ago if this sort of thing affected her.”

Public criticism resulting from the media reports was “fair enough” and she admitted she had been surprised at how many at-sea collision stories had surfaced.

“It is remarkable how many sailors - of all ages - have approached us to say 'we have had a collision',” she said.

“They were just accidents, they said, and the safety people said no one reports (the accidents).”

Electrical work on the boat was being completed on the Gold Coast and sea trials would begin shortly, before Jessica sailed for Sydney, then northbound to equatorial waters for her round-the-world attempt.

“We have no specific date for sailing yet, but Jessica's feeling more comfortable about it,” Mrs Watson said.

Experts say Jess lacks experience.

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