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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jessica's encounter

This is now world-wide news. A concise report summarizes the news by Radio New Zealand:

Australian teenage sailor Jessica Watson says she has survived her toughest test yet on her round the world trip with her yacht being forced on its side four times by big waves and high winds in the Atlantic ocean.

Miss Watson's online blog says after experiencing her first knockdown, which is when the mast goes into the sea, she then had three more during an eight-hour storm on Saturday.

The ABC reports the winds were gusting up to 70 knots with a swell of up to 10 metres.

Miss Watson, who's attempting the record as the youngest to sail solo around the world, has now passed the 11,000 nautical mile mark in her boat, Ella's Pink Lady.

Examiner.com quotes a spokesman from Watson's website:

"Jessica Watson has faced her toughest test to date on her solo circumnavigation, having experienced a violent storm overnight with hurricane-force wind gusts of up to 70 knots and a swell of 7-10 metres, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Jessica also experienced her first knockdown and then had to endure three more during the eight hour storm. A ‘knockdown’ is when the mast goes below horizontal and into the sea. In Jessica's case, she was hit by a series of rogue waves."
The 16 year old has ample warnings about the freaque waves during her planning stage of the adventure. So the encounter can't be construed as "unexpected". Still freaque wave occurrences are always unexpected, even though they are known to happen only no one knows where or when or what or how. Now that she has really encountered the real thing, good luck to her for a safe voyage the rest of her journey!


Update 1/24/2010:

This from Jessica's blog:
My quite sunny conditions ended with a bit of a bang, Ella's Pink Lady and I have been having a very interesting time out here. The wind had been expected to rise to a near gale, but none of the computers or forecasts picked that it would reach the 65knots that I recorded, before losing the wind instruments in a knockdown!

That much wind means some very big and nasty waves. To give you an idea of the conditions, they were similar to and possibly worse than those of the terrible 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race. We experienced a total of 4 knockdowns, the second was the most severe with the mast being pushed 180 degrees in to the water. Actually pushed isn't the right word, it would be more accurate to say that Ella's Pink Lady was picked up, thrown down a wave, then forced under a mountain of breaking water and violently turned upside down.

With everything battened down and conditions far too dangerous to be on deck, there wasn't anything I could do but belt myself in and hold on. Under just the tiny storm jib, the big electric autopilot did an amazing job of holding us on course downwind, possibly or possibly not helped by my yells of encouragement! It was only the big rogue waves that hit at us at an angle (side on) that proved dangerous and caused the knockdowns.

The solid frame of the targa (the frame that supports the solar panels) is bent out of shape and warped (see pic below), which provides a pretty good idea of the force of the waves. Solid inch thick stainless steel tube doesn't exactly just bend in the breeze, so I think you could say that Ella's Pink Lady has proven herself to be a very tough little boat!

Thanks Jessica, for such an upbeat, detailed description of a terrifying, nasty encounter with freaque waves out there by yourself!

Perhaps the best headline reporting this encounter belongs to Couriermail with "Jessica Watson tames the storm" and the following commentary:

WE ALL breathed a sigh of relief when brave young yachtswoman Jessica Watson successfully navigated the infamous Cape Horn off the southern tip of South America.

Given the gale-force winds and hill-like seas, little wonder it's called the Mount Everest of sailing. But Jessica's most recent encounter with 70 knot winds and 10m waves in the south Atlantic proves the young sailor's challenges are far from over. She's at about the halfway mark in her journey, and we're sure Jessica can meet those challenges. We look forward to her safe return.

Indeed she CAN most certainly meet those challenges. God bless and God speed!

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