Jessica Watson is a renowned Australian sailor who created a world record at 16 when she sailed around the world alone in 210 days. Her inspiring journey has been beautifully depicted in Netflix’s adventure drama biopic, ‘True Spirit.’ Apart from delving into Jessica’s challenges and hurdles in her voyage, the movie also explores her loving relationships with her mentors and close ones, including her parents, Roger and Julie Watson. Now, if you wish to learn more about their role in the sailor’s life and current whereabouts, we’ve got you covered!
Who Are Roger and Julie Watson?
Originally from New Zealand, Roger and Julie Watson tied the knot in 1986 and moved to Australia the following year. They initially lived in Surfers Paradise, where the former worked as a boilermaker for eighteen months. Roger then moved into real estate and built a successful business over the next eight years, whereas his wife worked as a therapist. He and Julie eventually had four kids, Emily, Jessica, Tom, and Hannah. It seems the couple has a knack for adventure, as they soon sold the business, their home, and some investment properties.
Roger and Julie gave their children sailing lessons at an early age before living together on a 16-meter cabin cruiser for five years. They decided to homeschool them, allowing them to learn valuable lessons through travel. During the winters, the family resided in a purpose-built double-decker bus. During this period, Julie would read bedtime stories to the kids, but one deeply impacted 11-year-old Jessica. German-Australian sailor Jesse Martin’s book, ‘Lionheart: A Journey of the Human Spirit’ planted the idea of sailing the world in the young girl’s mind.
At 12, Jessica approached her parents and told them she wanted to become the youngest person to attempt a solo, unassisted global circumnavigation. Surprised at her decision, Julie and Roger were initially quite skeptical about her young age and the dangers of the mission. In a June 2009 interview with The Courier Mail, the sailor’s mother shared, “My biggest worry is the big waves…Roger thinks the worst thing will be the loneliness, but Jessica’s greatest fear is that something will go wrong on the boat, and she won’t be able to fix it.”
However, seeing their child’s dedication and ability to multitask and manage things on a boat, Roger and Julie eventually came around and fully supported her as she trained rigorously for four years. In 2009, the family moved to Buderim, a Sunshine Coast, Queensland suburb. When Jessica decided to work with expert sailors Bruce Arms and Don McIntyre to learn the ropes, her parents ensured she was in capable hands.
“At first, Roger and I were nervous nellies, but we had to be. We did all the homework, checked the character references of the people she was sailing with, and then when they came back, we’d grill them. I’d pull them aside and say, ‘Listen, do you think this is just pie in the sky or is it a reality?’ and each one of them has said, ‘Yeah, she’s got it,” shared Julie. The confident mother added, “She’s made of the right stuff.’ She’s been working on this for three years, two years full-time. She’s got the knowledge, the experience, and the ability.”
Roger also stood by his daughter’s decision and stated, “When people say it sounds crazy, I agree with them. Most 16-year-olds couldn’t do it, but most 60-year-olds couldn’t do it either, and Jessica is not like most 16-year-olds.” “People who say Jessica is too immature for this have never met her.” Eventually, with her parents and mentors on her side, Jessica tackled all the skeptics who doubted her decision to sail the world alone. Roger and Julie pooled all their savings to support her financially and found sponsors to help fund her voyage.
On October 18, 2009, 16-year-old Jessica Watson set sail from Sydney Harbor, planning to chart a roughly 23,000 nautical miles-long journey over the next 200 days. Over the next eight months, she faced all sorts of hurdles and challenges, from violent storms and strong winds to loneliness. Meanwhile, Roger and Julie constantly prayed for her well-being and stayed in touch with her over the phone, guiding and encouraging her whenever needed.
Not just that, when Jessica entered Australian waters earlier in April that year, Julie and Roger flew over her yacht in a small plane to welcome her home. With their blessings, she finally completed her journey and returned home on May 15, 2010, after 210 grueling days at sea. Once Jessica set foot on land in Sydney, her parents gave her a hearty welcome and were elated to be reunited with her.
Where Are Roger and Julie Watson Today?
After Jessica returned home, she became a public sensation, with hordes of media outlets wishing to interview her and the family. Seeing their daughter receive so much love and respect naturally made Roger and Julie incredibly proud. Moreover, Jessica was given numerous accolades and honors, adding to their joy over her spectacular achievements. The young sailor’s happy parents supported her in her future endeavors and were happy when she completed her Master’s in Business Administration in 2017.
Since then, Julie and Roger have seemingly embraced a life of privacy over the past several years. As per recent reports, they now reside in Golden Beach, a coastal suburb in Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Furthermore, Roger has been working as an independent Realtor since 2017. He and Julie have a limited presence on social media, preferring to stay away from the public eye. Nevertheless, they are proud of all their kids and still enjoy engaging in outdoor activities with them.