Teen sailor Jessica Watson barred from race

Jessica Watson, the Australian teenager who made headlines earlier this year by becoming the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the globe, has been barred from sailing in an upcoming yacht race because she doesn’t meet the age requirements for the event.

Watson, who completed her round-the-world voyage back in May, had hoped to compete in the Sydney to Hobart sailing race that will get underway on December 26th, but her application was denied because she is just 17 years old. The organizers of the race require that all participants be at least 18 years of age.

The annual race, which is a popular event in Australia, begins in the Sydney Harbor, and plays out over the Tasman Sea and Storm Bay before coming to an end in the city of Hobart on the island of Tasmania. This will be the 66th running of the yacht race, which typically takes about three days to complete and crosses through 725 miles of treacherous waters. Just how treacherous? Back in 1998, a deadly accident occurred during the event which killed six sailors and prompted officials to institute the minimum age policy.

While Jessica has expressed disappointment in not being able to sail in the event, she says that it will give her more time to prepare for next year’s race. She had hoped to set out with a crew of young teenage sailors who could join her on her latest adventure on the high seas, but instead she’ll watch from the sideline as 99 other ships, some as long as 100 feet and sporting crews of more than a thousand, will race for the championship.

[Photo credit: Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race]

Jessica Watson completes round-the-world sail

16-year old Jessica Watson completed her solo, non-stop, circumnavigation of the globe earlier today, sailing into Sydney Harbor, while hundreds of Australians cheered, and thousands more watched on television. Jessica set out from Sydney last October, and has spent the last seven months navigating the high seas. By returning to the place she started on Saturday, she has become the youngest person to sail alone, unassisted, and without stopping, around the world.

Those seven months at sea offered plenty of challenges for Jessica and her 30-foot ship, the Ella’s Pink Lady. At times she faced massive storms, high winds, and 30-foot swells, as she covered more than 23,000 nautical miles in her journey. Her voyage took her briefly north of the equator before sailing through the treacherous waters around South America’s Cape Horn and Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Even her return home has been a challenging one, with storms near Tasmania slowing her progress and keeping an element of danger even in the final days.

Despite her amazing journey however, there are many who refuse to recognize her claim on the record of the youngest to sail around the world. For instance, the World Sailing Speed Record Council has set a minimum age of 18 as a requirement for a record to be officially recognized. Other long time sailors say that Jessica’s route was not long enough to be officially recognized either, saying that another 2000 miles would need to be added to compare it to similar feats done in the past. To achieve those extra miles, Jess would have had to spend more time in the Northern Hemisphere.

Jessica’s closest competition for the “youngest around” title was American Abby Sunderland, who is also 16-years old, and a few months younger than her Aussie counterpart. Abby was recently forced to pull into shore in Cape Town, South Africa to under go repairs to her ship, and by doing so, she removed the “non-stop” element from her voyage. Abby will continue on her solo sail however, saying she is as determined as ever to finish what she has started.

Regardless of whether or not the accomplishments of these two young women are seen as a record of any kind, their adventurous spirits are something to be recognized and celebrated. Congratulations to Jessica for her amazing accomplishment, and good luck to Abby on the rest of her journey as well.

Virgin Blue calls musician terrorist

It wasn’t until Steve Lucas actually got on the plane that he had a problem. His bullet-studded guitar strap – empty shells, of course – made it through the various points in the Sydney airport’s security gauntlet. Consequently, all his luggage was removed from the Virgin Blue flight.

Three times, the musician of 30 years was called to the front of the plane to sign a statement confirming that he had brought prohibited goods aboard. Lucas claims not to have had any problems with the shells on previous flights while on tour.

Separated from his instruments, Lucas was unable to rehearse in a timely manner, prompting him to call the airline’s complaints line … where he was told he was a potential terrorist.

Mom may have said that rock music will rot your brain, but this is extreme.

Unlike Lucas, these girls were actually *causing* problems in the sky. Click the pictures to find out what they did.

Qantas cuts first class service, only you can bring it back

Does two make it a trend? Along with British Airways, Qantas will get rid of some first class seating. While BA is doing it on new flights, Qantas is starting with three of its long-haul routes, because demand for the expensive seats is falling.

If you’re rich and have plans to fly from Sydney to Buenos Aires, Sydney to San Francisco or Melbourne to Hong Kong to London will be affected. This first class ban is scheduled to last from July 6 to October 31.

Since there’s no such thing as a straightforward airline decision, paying for business class – which will still be around – may get you a first class seat. But, you won’t get first class service.

Ultimately, the return of first class will be up to the Qantas passengers. If demand increases – i.e., if people start paying for first class seats again – Qantas will bring back the service.

Jetstar misses bedtime, fined

Australian low-cost carrier Jetstar has been fined nearly AU$150,000 (US$112,000) for the “wanton and deliberate” breach of Sydney Airport‘s curfew. From 11pm to 6am, takeoffs and landings are prohibited – except when permission is granted. So, imagine the anguish caused when Jetstar flight JQ37’s wheels went up at 11:28pm!

It gets worse.

The flight had been delayed for seven hours, keeping 70 passengers on the ground who had planned to be elsewhere long after the plane wound up taking off. Jetstar asked for an exception to the curfew … and was refused. Though rules were broken, the effect was softened by the fact that the pilot took off over the water to avoid disturbing area residents.

So, for once, an airline effectively announced a grand “Screw you!” to the rules to the passengers’ benefit. Hey, the airline may have its flaws – such as requiring overweight passengers to buy two aisle seats (figure that one out …) – but with this incident, it shows that it does care about its customers.

Could Jetstar have waited for airport officials to come around? Well, this event occurred on December 3, 2007, and those officials are just getting around to levying the fine now.

Do the math.