It's been crazily fun here in Sydney over the last couple of weeks. I flew out a few days before Jessica Watson's arrival to get used to the jet lag and to also do a full run through of Jessica's arrival on the water with the guys co-ordinating it all. Jesse Martin (previous youngest person to sail single-handed around the world) and I had been given the fun task of helming Ella's Pink Lady from the Sydney Heads all the way up the Opera House, which was a pretty exciting prospect. We were also reporting live for Channel 10 and One HD right off Jessica's yacht which was certainly going to be a laugh.
The day before Jessica arrived, everything in Sydney was really hotting up. Signs were put up all over the city telling everyone to expect a major 'class 1' event on Saturday. The city was really welcoming Jessica home! The news was packed with items about Jessica too.
I met up with Jesse Martin outside his hotel in Manly on the morning of Jessica's arrival and we walked down to the ferry to grab one over to Circular Quay in the heart of Sydney. After arriving and picking up a bite to eat, we were briefed about our role in the reporting and then we headed out in a chase boat with a full camera crew to go and find Jess. And she was late! Jess crossed the line two hours after her 'scheduled arrival time' but I wasn't surprised in the slightest. I think it's somewhat a tradition for solo sailors to be late.
The flotilla around Jessica was totally huge with reports of up to 1500 boats in the area which is pretty mad. The buzz in the flotilla was amazing though and I sure couldn't take the grin off my face. I was very lucky to be on one of the official chase boats as we were allowed inside her 'official cordon'. With all the spectator boats, there were about 8 police boats marking off the area around her so that no spectators boats could come close enough to risk a collision. Jesse Martin and I then jumped into a rib and we motored over to Jessica and boarded Ella's Pink Lady to help Jessica guide her up the harbour with such a huge armada of boats around her. It was fantastic to jump aboard and hand Jessica some FRESH FOOD! She immediately found the fresh cream!
We motored up the harbour, did a load of live crosses off the boat on TV and about half an hour later, we safely berthed at the Sydney Opera House. Jessica was greeted by thousands of cheering fans on the shore. The atmosphere was just so electric it sent shivers up my spine. Jessica jumped off into the waiting arms of her parents and family and it was fantastic to see them all reunited again. Jesse Martin and I then finished berthing Ella's Pink Lady and then followed Jessica up the pink carpet into the area right in front of the stage reserved for her close family and friends. Her speech was pretty awesome and I was pretty darn proud of her.
Jessica was then whisked off to her press conference and after that was finished Jesse Martin and I sailed Ella's Pink Lady around to the Maritime Museum where she was due to be quarantined. We later caught up with Jessica at a small but brilliant get together at a hotel in Manly where all her close family and team were. Amazingly, there was Jesse Martin, David Dicks, Brian Caldwell, and Jon Sanders there too. Six people who had sailed solo around the world before in the same room and four of us who had once been the 'youngest'. It was brilliant to meet these guys and we all had a great laugh together.
Since Jessica arrived back it's been a brilliantly fun week. I've been surfing with Layne Beachley (7 times world champion), diving with sharks, helicopter flying, bridge climbing, and even spent a bit of time out on the water but to name a few of the things that I've been up too. It's been non stop fun here in Manly.
Jess, I, and a couple of others are going to sail Ella's Pink Lady up the coast next week which should be good fun and I'm looking forward to getting into some warmer climes.