At 16, Australian Jessica Watson became the youngest to sail alone around the world. After 23,000 miles aboard her 34-foot long Ella's Pink Lady, Jessica steered triumphantly into Sydney Harbor on May 15, 2010. During seven months at sea, she said she struggled against homesickness, loneliness, and boredom. Those wild storms that nearly sunk her boat were no fun either.
Australia's prime minister called her the country's newest hero. But Jessica didn't see it that way: “I’m going to disagree with the Prime Minister. I don’t consider myself a hero. You don’t have to be someone special to achieve something amazing.”
You might call this a victory over helicopter parenting. Or a triumph of technology that now enables email even on the high seas. Ultimately, though, it was Jessica who had to have the courage and determination to see this dream through to completion.
Still, her feat was not without controversy
Jessica followed in the wake of two other teen sailors, Californian Zac Sunderland, and Briton Mike Perham. Both were (slightly) older than Jessica, but given the risks and the number of teens going for this record now, sailing organizations are trying to discourage it by no longer officially keeping track of the youngest.
The question of "how young is too young" was brought up too, when 13-year old Jordan Romero became the youngest to summit Mount Everest. The American boy climbed with his father, his father's girlfriend, and three Nepalese sherpas.
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Laura Dekker, continues her solo circumnavigation of the globe. After being initially barred from leaving by Dutch child welfare authorities when she was 14, Laura sailed across the Atlantic in December.
"There were two or three moments that I thought, "Okay, why the hell am I doing this?" but they were not for very long. If I feel really lonely I can always call my parents or something so then it's over,' she told the London Daily Mail.