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Australian Teenage around-the-world sailot Jessica Watson crosses the equator - Kiribati

Glenis Green From: Herald Sun November 20, 2009 12:00AM

Jessica Watson. Picture: AFP Source: Herald Sun

TEENAGE around-the-world sailor Jessica Watson has reached her first milestone ahead of schedule.
The determined Sunshine Coast 16-year-old, aiming to be the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe, called her land-based team of supporters to confirm she officially crossed the Equator at 7.17am on Thursday.

She immediately followed nautical tradition, dunking herself in ocean water as a celebration "baptism".

The night before the Equator crossing, two days ahead of schedule near the Pacific's Kiribati islands, Jessica reported on her blog that she saw a huge shooting star.

"It was so bright and so big that I was a bit spooked before realising what it was," she said.

"But I can't tell you what I wished for!"

"She gave herself the dunking then had her own little party," Julie said after speaking to her.

Jessica's aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends, who had gathered at Cromwell in New Zealand's South Island, joined the party by satellite phone.

The Equator crossing came on her 31st day at sea after setting out from Sydney.

The delayed start followed a rocky test trip south from Mooloolaba when her 10.2m yacht, collided with a bulk carrier and she had to put in for repairs.

The Equator is one of several targets she must hit to qualify for around-the-world status.

Others include departing and arriving from the same port, crossing all lines of longitude and rounding the southern landmarks of South America and South Africa.

Jessica is hoping to reach her next milestone - the treacherous Cape Horn, South America's most southerly point - in a little over a month.

She has been alone for 31 days, but recently enjoyed the company of a small brown seabird she nicknamed "Silly" after it became obsessed with her wind generator.

Jessica said she was becoming more nocturnal as the weather heated up, saving her boating chores for the cool of the evenings.

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