‘True Spirit’s Jessica Watson Finished 2 Books & An MBA After Sailing The World
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Netflix has your Friday night plans covered. The streamer dropped True Spirit this week, a new film that tells the true story of teenager Jessica Watson’s legendary sailing voyage around the world from 2009 to 2010. At 16, the Australian native (played by Teagan Croft in the film) completed a 210-day sailing trip, unofficially breaking the record for the youngest to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world (she couldn’t be officially recognized by the World Speed Sailing Record Council because she was too young).
Jessica was born in Australia and grew up sailing, but she never saw herself as someone who would sail around the world. Critics doubted her ability to complete the trip, but she proved them wrong and made international headlines. The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, even deemed her an “Australian hero” upon her return.
“I’m just an ordinary girl who believed in her dream,” Jessica said in a speech. “You don’t have to be someone special, or anything special, to achieve something amazing. You just have to have a dream, believe in it, and work hard.”
But what has Jessica experienced since her trip? Women's Health has collected all the details, plus some more info about the film:
She’s 29 years old.
Jessica was only 16-years-old when she started her voyage around the world on October 18, 2009. She was born in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia on May 18, 1993.
Her parents are originally from New Zealand, and the sailor has dual citizenship in both countries. She is the second of four children, with an older sister, Emily, and two younger siblings–her brother Tom, and her sister Hannah.
Since her voyage, Jessica has gone back to living a pretty normal life, but she still sails and assisted with the making of True Spirit. In a recent podcast interview, Jessica said that while there’s some “movie magic,” the film is mostly “scarily accurate” to what she experienced while at sea.
She grew up on the water, literally.
Jessica began sailing at 8 years old. In fact, her family actually lived on a 16-meter cabin cruiser for five years when she was young, according to the Australian Museum. When Jessica was 11, her mother read her Lionheart by Jesse Martin while aboard their family’s boat.
The book detailed Jesse Martin’s experience on his own solo sailing journey across the world. This moment in her life inspired Jessica to work to make the voyage herself before her 17th birthday.
In the years leading up to her solo voyage, Jessica completed 6000 coastal miles, and 6000 ocean miles in preparation, according to the Australian Museum. She also crewed on many different vessels, including acting as a skipper (or captain) on a crew sailing across the Tasman sea between Australia and New Zealand.
Jessica has an MBA.
Growing up on a boat and later, a double-decker bus, Jessica was homeschooled for much of her life. But after her voyage around the world, she took a few years off from school.
By 2017, she received her MBA from the Australian Institute of Management. In a blog post she posted around the time of her graduation, she wrote that she aimed for her education to give her a path toward working with youth.
Jessica currently works as a public speaker and consultant.
Prior to the completion of her MBA, Jessica was a youth ambassador for the United Nations Food Program, where she worked with refugees from Syria and Lebanon.
Jessica currently works at Deloitte as a management consultant for their Human Capital team. She also regularly does public speaking at corporate events and conferences. She covers topics on resilience, harnessing fear, and managing risk.
Her partner died of a stroke.
In August 2021, Jessica lost her longtime partner, Cameron Dale, to a stroke.
The couple met in 2011 during an Australian sailing race called the Sydney to Hobart Campaign, and started dating shortly after. Cameron was just 29 when he died. “Being Cam’s ‘Jess’ is the role I’m most proud of,” said Jessica in an Instagram caption of a memorial post for Cameron.
Jessica now spreads awareness of early signs of stroke on her Instagram page. She has a post about Cameron’s stroke pinned at the top of her profile, and has “#checkyourbloodpressure” written in her bio.
The film True Spirit will also include a memorial dedication to Cameron.
Ben Bryant didn’t actually exist.
In True Spirit, viewers meet a character named Ben Bryant, who is played by Cliff Curtis. Ben is Jessica’s mentor in the film, and helps her in the moments leading up to, and during her voyage around the world.
His character is actually based on a group of people, rather than a specific person. In an Instagram post from last month, Jessica wrote that “Ben” is one of her favorite things about the film.
“While there are so many who so deserve their own character @cliffcurtis_ has beautifully captures the spirit of these men who were so determined to see a young girl take on the world and the way they are some of my best mates,” she wrote.
Jessica has written two books.
After speaking about her struggle with dyslexia as a child, Jessica went on to write two books of her own. She published True Spirit, the memoir detailing her voyage around the world, in September 2010–just a few months after completing her trip. The book is mostly a collection of blog posts she wrote while aboard her boat, Ella's Pink Lady.
In the preface, Jessica clarifies that some of the blog posts are edited or expanded upon, but it is mostly the original material. The book details the conditions of Jessica’s voyage, as well as parts of her life that led to the journey.
In 2018, Jessica penned a second book, Indigo Blue. This book is a novel for elementary schoolers, and tells the story of Alex, a high school girl who moves to Boreen Point, Australia and begins restoring a yacht. In an Instagram post she made shortly before the book was published, Jessica wrote that she hoped the book would inspire young girls to “fall in love with sailing.”
She speaks to audiences about her experience and has been on podcasts.
Since her voyage, Jessica has maintained a pretty private life. However, her public appearances mostly take the shape of inspiring speeches or podcast interviews.
In 2014, she gave a TEDx Talk called “Sail Away” which details all of the preparation that went into her voyage–from learning to stitch up sails to using the stars to navigate. In her most recent podcast appearance on the Australian podcast I’ve Got News For You, she also recounted her voyage and life.
“Sailing is something I’ve done over the years [since my voyage] but it’s something I take less seriously [now],” she said in the interview. “These days I actually have a sensible career. A desk job.”
Jessica is finding joy in her family.
As one of four siblings, Jessica’s family is very important to her. She mentioned in a recent interview that although the death of Cameron is the hardest thing she’s gone through in her life, she is getting by with the help of family and friends.
“My siblings, (it goes without saying that this includes siblings in law), your company and support are amazing,” Jessica wrote in an Instagram post reflecting on Cameron’s death.
It seems all of Jessica’s siblings are married–she’s posted about her siblings Emily and Tom’s weddings. Her younger sister, Hannah, also just welcomed a daughter in December 2022. In an Instagram story commemorating the occasion, Jessica mentioned it was her second niece.
What is her net worth?
Between her books, job and Netflix documentary, Jessica has a few sources of income–so it’s unclear exactly how much she’s worth. Various sites put her total net worth anywhere between $1 million and $15 million. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for Jessica’s job is around $98,000 per year.
Catch True Spirit streaming on Netflix now.
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