Jessica Watson is sixteen. She will be seventeen about a week from now. If she is lucky she will spend her birthday with her family.
As I write this Jessica is sailing up the eastern coast of Australia. It is some of the roughest water in the world. She is not just tired, she is exhausted - both physically and mentally. She has spent the last eight months at sea - on her own.
Jessica has sailed around the world in a little, very little, pink boat. Or has she? Jessica has crossed the equator and the Pacific and gone around Tierra del Fuego and across the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean. She has managed to right her little boat at least six times. She has replaced the mast.
Jessica has battled gale force winds and thirty foot waves. She is battered and bruised and she still has a week or so to go.
I think her parents were totally crazy to let her do it - but they did. I think Jessica is mad to even want to do it - but she did. I think she is going to find it tremendously hard to settle down again and accept the external discipline of the rest of the world. Let's face it, after all this time at sea, even crossing the street is going to be something she has to get used to again.
Despite all that I admire Jessica. I admire her courage and her tenacity and her will power, her maturity and strength of character. There are very few teenagers, indeed very few adults, who could set out on a much less dangerous and demanding solo adventure and make it to the end.
If Jessica makes it into Sydney harbour about a week for now I am not going to try and say she did not achieve anything because she has achieved a lot.
But now, as she comes into the last few days of her voyage, there are a raft of critical comments being heard in the media. There are claims she has not actually technically sailed around the world (because she did not go 1,500 nautical miles above equator) even though she has sailed 23,000 nautical miles. Some fancy sailing organisation says she cannot claim the record because of this and because she is - wait for it - too young. She apparently has to be 18 to claim the record - so Jesse Martin gets to keep the record.
All these comments are coming to light now - at the end of her voyage. They were not given media coverage at the beginning. Why now? Why do it anyway?
It seems we love to knock achievers but this is more than knocking one achiever. This time it is knocking an entire generation of young people. This is saying, "It does not matter if you do go out and pursue your dreams. It does not matter if you succeed. We are not going to acknowledge that. We are only interested if you do not achieve and we can speak about you in the negative."
Does it matter or doesn't it?
I think it might matter a great deal more than we are willing to admit.