Welcome home Jess
THE Whitsundays were well represented in Sydney on Saturday as Jessica Watson completed her 210-day sailing journey to become the youngest sailor to sail solo unassisted around the world.
Airlie Beach sailing yacht Merit hosted the Channel Seven news crew on the day. They were broadcasting live from onboard as Jessica sailed her S&S 34 sloop Ella Pink Lady into Sydney Harbour about 2pm on Saturday.
Merit and her passengers steamed out through the Sydney Heads at daybreak in three-metre swells to meet Jessica 10 nautical miles out to sea and trail her back into port.
The Seven Network crossed regularly to Merit to film live updates as a huge flotilla of boats gathered in the harbour to welcome the young Queenslander home.
The crew on Merit consisted of Whitsunday locals and Sydneysiders.
World surfing champion Layne Beachley was also onboard representing the Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation which helps to inspire young women across Australia.
Merit's navigator for the day was Whitsundays sailor Clay Bauman.
He said the harbour was alive with pink as boats and the public came out to greet the 16-year-old world record breaker.
“Besides her parents in the official boat, we were the first yacht to meet her and were greeted with a friendly and enthusiastic wave,” Bauman said.
“She is clearly a great role model.
“I'm sure that the many excellent sailors in the Whitsundays will appreciate and respect the great feat accomplished by Jessica.”
Jessica was welcomed home by thousands of people lining the Sydney Harbour shores, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The Volvo Ocean 60 Merit, owned by Leo Rodriguez, sailed south to Sydney in late March to enter into corporate charter work until the Whitsunday racing season starts again. It is expected Merit will return to the Whitsundays in August in time for Airlie Beach Race Week.