When Azzurro, the ‘Little Boat That Could’, docked in Hobart this afternoon just before 3.45pm, there was a huge crowd waiting to meet her – or more precisely, one of her crew – Jessica Watson OAM, who had just finished the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
As a 16 year-old, Watson sailed single-handed, nonstop and unassisted around the world. At the time of leaving, she came up against a lot of opposition, but proved her critics wrong.
Now 30, she remains one of the most modest and ordinary people you could meet.
Stepping ashore from the S&S 34 Azzurro (Ella’s Pink Lady which she sailed around the world was the same design), after finishing the 2023 Sydney Hobart, Watson said, “Someone asked if we had broken anything and we said ‘just six people!
“We have bumps and bruises and one of the guys had a bit of a cut on the hand. But all are OK and the boat was great,” she said of the boat Jack Kliner from Queensland recently bought from Shane Kearns.
Kliner said, “I’ll be calling Shane to let him know how we went. I know he will have been watching and I hope we did him proud.”
Credit: ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo
Watson sailed her third Sydney-Hobart to raise awareness for the risk factors of stroke and advocating for prevention and treatment of strokes after losing her long time partner to a stroke in 2021.
In addition, she enjoys sailing and an adventure. Asked about the race, Watson said: “It was awesome, but brutal. Really, really unrelenting.
“It was either no wind, which was really frustrating, or a lot of wind and that was tough and hard.”
She and the crew were just happy to be in Hobart and to be received by a huge crowd and in time for the New Year.
Watson is one of so many women who have been lauded in the race this year. Women navigated the winner Alive and second placed URM Group. Vanessa Dudley sailed her 25th Hobart and Annika Thomson won the Jane Tate Memorial for the first female skipper to cross the finish line, while others finished top three in their divisions.