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Old 10-13-2009
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I don't understand how this can be up in the air at all. She clearly lacks the skill to approach this challenge and because she is a minor, her parents are responsible for making sure their daughter doesn't recklessly venture into danger.

There was a 7-year old girl who died while trying to break the world record for the youngest to “fly an airplane across the United States”. Read: Jessica Dubroff - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Another foolish parent, irresponsible flight instructor and a complacent legal system in the United States that allowed that to continue. In the end, she was killed along with her father and flight instructor when she tried to push on (trying to meet a schedule for media coverage and publicity) and took off overloaded, at high altitude and in inclement weather.

Now with this 16-year old girl and the latest world buzz around young “kids” trying to circumnavigate the world, I see this as a repeat of events–this time with sailboats instead of airplanes. I think the MSQ is sending the right message and I think the Australian government has an obligation to take action against the parents if they continue this course of action.

If one’s child is a prodigy then a parent should foster and encourage those talents, but not at the risk of either depriving a child of their childhood or putting them in danger. This act seems purely motivated by selfishness and greed. Taking a child cruising to learn to sail, hone their talents and explore the world is one thing, placing them on a boat at 16 and waving good luck while pandering to the media is dangerous and stupid. I could not imagine embarking on a world-wide solo circumnavigation at 16–even if I had the cognitive skill to do so. Emotionally it’s extremely difficult and physically challenging even for adults.

Excerpts from a posting on my web site:

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) assessed young Watson’s skills after performing an investigation of the incident and in a letter addressed to the family said that their official opinion is that Watson is too young and inexperienced to attempt a circumnavigation. According to the inspectors, Watson noted the approach of the carrier on radar at 2am and then went below to take a nap. At 2:10am, Watson’s sailboat collided with the carrier. MSQ also noted that Watson failed to set the proximity alarm on her radar.

Watson’s family is determined to send their young daughter out into the open sea and remarked on their website that “Jessica Watson and her team wish to advise all of her supporters that she remains on track to achieve her goal of being the youngest to sail solo around the world.” The Watsons go on to bemoan the leaking of the MSQ letter but say they “respect all of the maritime authorities and the important role they play in ensuring safety on the sea.”
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