Jessica Watson OAM (born 18 May 1993) is an Australian sailor who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for completing a southern hemisphere solo circumnavigation at the age of 16. Departing Sydney on 18 October 2009, Watson headed north-east, crossing the equator in the Pacific Ocean before crossing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. She returned to Sydney on 15 May 2010, three days before her 17th birthday, though the voyage was ultimately shorter than the required 21,600 nautical miles to be considered a global circumnavigation. In recognition of her achievement Watson was named the 2011 Young Australian of the Year, and the following year was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia. She currently resides in Buderim, Queensland.
Watson was born in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The second of four children of New Zealander couple Roger and Julie Watson, who moved to Australia in 1987, she has dual Australian and New Zealand citizenship. She has an older sister (Emily) and younger brother and sister (Tom and Hannah). All four took sailing lessons as children, and the family went on to live on board a 16-metre cabin cruiser for five years, the children being home schooled via distance learning. Later they lived on a purpose-built double decker bus for some time. When Watson was eleven and they were still living on the boat, her mother read Jesse Martin's book Lionheart: A Journey of the Human Spirit to the children as a bedtime story. This led to Watson forming the ambition, at age 12, to sail around the world too.