Kiwis can lay claim to Oz heroine

By Jarrod Booker

Jessica Watson is on course to be the youngest person to complete a non-stop solo sailing trip around the world. Photo / Supplied
Jessica Watson is on course to be the youngest person to complete a non-stop solo sailing trip around the world. Photo / Supplied

They have claimed Phar Lap, Crowded House and pavlova as their own. But now New Zealand has a chance to claim Australia's next star.

Queenslander Jessica Watson, 16, is on track to become the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe solo next month.

When she sails into Sydney next month, her parents Roger and Julie - both originally from New Zealand - will be there to greet her. They will be joined by other Kiwi relatives, who are travelling over.

Jessica's grandfather, Gordon Chisholm, of Cromwell, Central Otago, says New Zealand can take plenty of pride in Jessica's Kiwi roots.

Asked if New Zealand could rightly lay claim to her, Mr Chisholm told the Herald: "Oh yeah. You bet".

Australian sailing legend John Bertrand told the Herald he understood there was a "little Kiwi blood" in Jessica's veins, but that would not matter when she was claimed by the Australians.

"The fact that she lives in Australia, it's going to a pretty tough slog for the Kiwis to get too much airspace, but I know - having good mates in New Zealand - they will put up a good claim for it."

Mr Chisholm said while there would be plenty of "hoo-hah" when Jessica arrived at Sydney Harbour, he expected her to handle it well.

"She seems to be able to sort out the wood from the trees. Being a young girl, everybody she meets has got a lot of advice for her, including us."

Asked what he would say when he saw her for the first time after her epic journey, Mr Chisholm said jokingly: "Just gidday ... where have you been?"

Jessica had phoned Mr Chisholm and his wife Margaret several times during her journey.

She had not had an easy time in the final stretch to home, having her mainsail torn recently after being battered by strong winds and big swells in the Southern Ocean.

"She was always realistic about what to expect," Mr Chisholm said.

"Being Jessica, she knows how to deal with it, and is very capable of dealing with it."

- NZ Herald

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