Tassie turns on rough welcome for Watson

TASMANIAN eyes will be among the last to turn seaward trying to spot Australia's newest seafaring legend, Jessica Watson.

Battling Tasmania's West Coast waters was one of the last hurdles the 16-year-old sailor faced in her solo round-the-world journey and last night she rounded the state's southern tip, bound for Sydney.

Watson has attracted worldwide attention since she set sail in Ella's Pink Lady on September 30 last year to become the youngest person to attempt to sail solo non-stop and unassisted around the world.

The 38,000 kilometre trip is finally approaching an end and not only does she look set to achieve what she set out to do, but she is ahead of schedule.

Her manager Andrew Fraser said she may arrive in Sydney as early as Saturday, May 8, but Tasmanians may not get a glimpse of the pint-sized hero as she has been forced to stay offshore to escape treacherous Tasmanian coastal waters.

Media speculation of trouble at sea took hold yesterday after three days of silence on Watson's regularly updated blog, but her mentor Bruce Arms said she had made it safely to Tasmania's South West Cape.

"We were predicting really harsh conditions but it wasn't quite as bad as expected, the winds reached about 35 knots (on Sunday morning) and 45 knots (on Saturday night), where we were predicting about 55 knots," he said.

"It is all going well, she emailed me to say she would have to head offshore again but she has reached the bottom of the coast."

Her latest website update showed a picture of a 10-metre swell towering over Ella's Pink Lady and Thursday's blog entry depicted her gruelling battle with Tasmania's waters.

Reports have turned to the aftermath of Watson's endeavour with crowds of more than 10,000 expected to welcome her home at Sydney Harbour.

The coming weeks will be a whirlwind of activity for Watson, who turns 17 on May 18.

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