When 16 year-old Jessica Watson begins her second attempt at becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, non stop and unassisted later this week, she will do so against a squall of opposition.
There is no greater sporting challenge on the planet than a successful solo circumnavigation.
Freak waves, collisions with oil tankers and cargo ships, striking whales and icebergs in the Southern Ocean, piracy, boat breakdowns, snapped masts in horrific conditions, failed radio communications thousands of miles from land and just plain sheer fatigue and loneliness can and regularly do plague all sailors.
Those challenges exist regardless of age and experience.
More people have stood atop Mount Everest, and indeed, more have made it into space than those who have successfully completed a solo circumnavigation.
The fatality rate of such a sailing attempt is also greater than either of the above pursuits. More people have died attempting a solo circumnavigation than in any other sporting challenge.
Many in society struggle to be philosophical about danger and death, particularly when such risks are being taken by a youngster. But a life lived behind an office desk before a contented retirement, then dropping off the perch after 80 years of life is not a given.
Nor is it a life fit for everybody, and we should applaud and support anyone, regardless of age, who fights against the expected norm to chase their dream, for they provide the rest of us with a rare glimpse of what was once fundamental to the human condition – a lust and curiosity for adventure.
Today’s kids have mobile phones by age 9, their own computers handed out free by the federal government at age 12, video games by the hundreds and manufactured pop songs by the thousands on ipods that were not even conceived let alone invented when those children were born little more than a decade ago.
Many parents are happy to sit their kids in front of parading women and rapping gangsters on Video Hits every Saturday morning yet are the first to pile into a 16 year old girl chasing her dream.
There is a legitimate argument to be made for the abolition of age records in the sailing world, for in some cases they may push a young person to attempt a record claiming voyage before they are genuinely ready.
Completing the voyage is an enormous achievement in itself and Jessica may or may not have the experience, maturity, or physical strength to complete the trip.
Rewarding age records that could encourage damaging parental pressure on a child should be avoided at all costs. In Jessica’s case, however, this is her dream.
Watson’s safety is said to be the primary concern of those who oppose her plans, although it is hard to fathom that those who sit in judgement could possibly believe their concerns outweigh those of Jessica’s proud parents.
She has every conceivable safety measure covered – the rest is down to thorough planning, competent sailing and pure good fortune.
The entire point of such a challenge is that it is dangerous and difficult. Otherwise, why bother?
Teddy Roosevelt’s infamous ‘Man In The Arena’ speech should surely be the motto of every sporting journalist in the nation, yet the majority appear to condemn Watson.
Sport, at its best, is about triumph over trial and tribulation.
Who would run marathons if they were easy? Climb mountains, trek to both poles, cycle for three weeks through the Alps and the Pyrennes, or swim, ride and run for more than eight hours as Craig Alexander did this week to push himself beyond exhaustion to win his second Hawaiian triathalon?
These pursuits are not meant to be easy. It takes a special sort of person, young or old.
Jessica sets sail within days. She may not succeed, but she cannot possibly fail.