Turning 18 has its perks: the ability to vote, open a bank account and purchase lottery tickets, to name a few. But to Jessica Watson, named Young Australian of the Year in 2010 for being the youngest person to (unofficially) complete a nonstop and unassisted solo circumnavigation of the world, turning 18 meant something entirely different: the ability to enter the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. On December 26, Watson will vie to become the youngest skipper with the youngest crew to ever compete in the iconic race.
Set on the waters of Sydney Harbour, the Tasman Sea, Storm Bay and the Derwent River, the 66-year-old Rolex Sydney Hobart is illustrious for maintaining high standards for yacht race entry, including a minimum skipper age of 18. Watson turned 18 in May and began a three-month-long intensive training program with her crew in October. Chris Lewin, who led the race’s former youngest crew to a 3rd-place finish in the Sydney 38 Division in 2004, is coaching the team.
Watson’s crew will consist of ten individuals, none of whom are older than 21, aboard the aptly named another Challenge. The Australian skincare line Ella Bach, who also sponsored Watson’s solo circumnavigation, provided the pink Sydney 38 OD, which has seen success in several Rolex Sydney Hobarts since its first race in 2000. Amongst other notable crew members is Mike Perham, who became the youngest person to sail solo assisted around the world in 2009.
Garry Linacre, Commodore of The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and the race’s host says, “It is passionate sailors such as these that are the future of sailing in Australia and we wish them all the best in their training and preparation for Australia’s most iconic yacht race.”