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Schoolgirl sails solo around the world



Awesome Aussie:Australian round-the-world sailor Jessica Watson (centre), is helped by father Roger (right) after she brought her yacht ‘Ella's Pink Lady' into the Sydney Opera House following an official finish on Saturday.

SYDNEY: Australian schoolgirl sailor Jessica Watson sailed into history on Saturday, becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, non-stop and without help.

Ms. Watson (16) crossed the finish line at the entrance to Sydney Harbour shortly before 2 p.m. (0400 GMT) in her bright pink yacht after 210 days at sea, one month ahead of schedule and three days before her 17th birthday.

Harbour Master Steve Young sounded a pink hooter to signal the official end to her voyage, and a tugboat sent up a celebratory jet of water as the beaming teen steered through the harbour mouth, waving to the throng of onlookers. “She's home,” her mother Julie wept as she passed the official finish.

Rapturous crowds cheered as the young adventurer cruised towards the white sails of the Sydney Opera House, where she was to take her first steps on dry land in almost seven months for a tearful family reunion.

“I have only managed a couple of hours sleep, but I think I'm running on excitement,” Ms. Watson said, speaking ahead of the finish. “I better take a deep breath before I get in.”

Although the World Speed Sailing Council will not recognise Watson's record, as its minimum age is 18, the seven-month voyage makes her the youngest person to do this feat.

Tens of thousands of people gathered along the harbour front to witness the feat — many wearing pink and waving banners — while millions more were expected to tune into the live commercial television broadcast.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and current world record holder Jesse Martin, also an Australian, were among those gathered to help welcome Ms. Watson back to Sydney, where a hundred-strong flotilla of boats flocked to see her in. — AFP

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