Sixteen-Year-Old Jessica Watson Sets off on Round-World Sail

An Australian schoolgirl bidding to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world began her journey Sunday, despite urgings from officials to abandon the perilous endurance test.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson set sail on her bright pink yacht from Sydney Harbour at about 9:00 am (2200 GMT Saturday), amid cheers from well-wishers and accompanied by a collection of kayakers and small boats.

The teenager badly damaged her boat when she crashed into a 63,000-tonne cargo ship shortly after beginning a test run last month, prompting Queensland state officials to urge her to reconsider her quest.

But Watson, who will sleep in 20-minute naps during the eight-month non-stop sail, was determined to embark on the voyage which she said she had been dreaming about since she was about 11, AFP reports.

Her record attempt, backed by more than 30 sponsors and suppliers including skincare brand Ella Bache and Panasonic, has prompted warnings that she is too young and inexperienced to take on such a challenge.

Taking on the winds and waves of the Southern Ocean is like scaling Mount Everest "on your first climbing adventure,"Andrew Cape, who has sailed around Cape Horn seven times, wrote to Watson, the Australian newspaper reported. “I do not want to shatter your dreams but to undertake such a voyage requires more experience than you currently have," Bloomberg reports.

"I think a lot of Australians are nervous for Jessica. I'm nervous for her," the country's deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, told Nine Network TV. "But my words at this stage, given that she's determined to go, would be to wish her the best of luck and to urge her to keep safe."

A British 17-year-old, Mike Perham, became the youngest solo round-the-world sailor in August following a nine-month voyage, although a stop for repairs en route meant his trip did not count as unassisted. The youngest sailor to complete the voyage unassisted is another Australian, Jesse Martin, who was 18 when he completed it in 1999.

In August a Dutch court ordered that a 13-year-old girl, Laura Dekker, should be put into state care following plans for her to attempt a solo round-the-world sailing, informs.

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