teens

10 years ago, Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the world. This is her life now.

Ten years ago, the nation watched as 16-year-old Jessica Watson set sail around the world in her bright pink yacht, Ella’s Pink Lady. 

After 210 days alone at sea, Jessica sailed back into Sydney Harbour a national hero and the youngest person to complete a solo, unassisted and non-stop trip around the world.

“It really was such a special and unique time,” Jessica told Mamamia.

“There are still some parts that still remain incredibly vivid to this day and I really do treasure those memories.”

Watch 16-year-old Jessica Watson set sail for her round-the-world voyage in October 2009. Post continues after video. 

Video via QUT NEWS

A decade on, her voyage remains an inspirational moment in Australian history, particularly for young women and girls. But it didn’t come without criticism.

“I do very much understand where people were coming from… the whole story wasn’t necessarily told and people didn’t know about the preparations.

“But at the same time, there’s so much criticism out there and everyone is quick to be a critic and I’m kind of okay with that.”

Jessica went on to be named Young Australian of the Year in 2011 for the bravery she showed during her solo voyage. But Jessica said she was far from brave when she was young.

“I think what people don’t necessarily realise or think of me is that I was quite a timid kid. Even when I decided to sail around the world, I was very fearful. It was actually the fact that I had this goal and wanted to do this, that I realised, well if I’m going to do this, I have to change,” she said.

“In so many ways it [the voyage] feels like an age ago because so many things have happened during the years and I’ve changed so much.”

Now 26, Jessica has continued to make waves outside of the sailing world, having written two books, volunteered at refugee camps and even helped launch a boating app, Deckee.

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Here’s what Jessica has been up to since the voyage.

She’s still sailing, but not solo.

Ten years on, Jessica still loves sailing, only now she says it’s more of a hobby.

“I think people think I take it [sailing] quite seriously but really my favourite thing to do is to get out and have a bit of fun.”

And these days, she’s not sailing solo. Jessica says she likes to spend her weekends on the boat with her friends and her boyfriend Cameron Dale, who she met while sailing.

“It’s a nice thing for us to share and to have in common.”

Jessica Watson now
Jessica and her boyfriend Cameron. Image: Facebook.
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She’s chosen a very different career.

Thre's no doubt Jessica loves spending time on the water,  but when it came time to choose a career, sailing was the furthest thing from her mind.

“I was realising through study, and through how much I was enjoying it, that I wanted a career that really sort of pushed me in a different way."

So Jessica decided to pursue a career in business and completed her Masters of Business Administration in 2017. She is now working as a management consultant for a Melbourne accounting firm.

"I’ve been looking for ways to challenge myself since the voyage and I found the best way to do it is to put myself out of my comfort zone.”

She doesn't shy away from trying something new.

Jessica's 2012 stint on Dancing with the Stars was another way she decided to challenge herself since the voyage.

"I thought it was really different and a real challenge and maybe I should give this a go," she said.

Jessica ended up getting eliminated half-way through the season but she still says “it was an awesome experience and a lot of fun”.

From there, Jessica has continued to push herself out of her comfort zone. Particularly, when she decided to write her second book, Indigo Blue. 

“Writing my second book, which is a novel for young adults, was actually quite scary,” Jessica told Mamamia. 

“I always thought this was something I wanted to do and you go around telling other people to do things that scare you, so you should probably be following your own advice.”

Jessica's second book, which was was published just last year, brings together her love of sailing and adventure with the fairy tales she enjoyed as a kid.

“I wanted to share what I love about sailing, especially with young people, particularly young girls.”

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Writing a story about sailing also seemed fitting, as it was a book that inspired Jessica to sail around the world.

“Mum used to read to me a lot as a kid because I’m dyslexic and that used to be a bit of a struggle. So she was constantly reading to me and the books she read were adventure stories, which clearly led to some of the thinking,” she laughed.

She has been a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations.

After returning home from the voyage, Jessica says she is most proud of her role as a Youth Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme.

Her role isn’t as active these days but has taken her to “some pretty confronting places” from Laos to refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

“I suppose the biggest take away from that is just how lucky we are and how much we have to appreciate here.”

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After conquering the sailing world, writing world and even the dancing world, Jessica doesn’t have any grand plans for the future, just yet.

“Right now I’m really enjoying sailing for fun, and enjoying my career.”

In the meantime, the producers of the Oscar-nominated movie, Lion are currently working on a film adaption of Jessica’s story.

As for another voyage, Jessica said, “I would absolutely love to sail around the world again, I’m not sure if I would do it solo next time.”

“I always thought next time, I would be stopping along the way, and potentially with friends. Instead of it being non-stop and missing out on all of the beautiful places along the way.

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