True Spirit, an Interview with Jessica Watson

By: Movies, women on the water

True Spirit, available only on Netflix, on February 3, 2023, captures the essence of sailing from the exhilarating sailing sequences to the abysmal loneliness to the harrowing storms. Reacquaint yourself with the story that captured the world’s attention when a teenager decided to attempt to become the youngest sailor to sail non-stop around the globe. You will feel the wind in your face, your palms will sweat when the storms roll in and spoiler alert, you might cry a little as well.

Jessica Watson sat down with American Sailing to discuss sailing, her adventure and True Spirit the film about her sailing expedition to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted. True Spirt is only available on Netflix on February 3, 2023.

ASA Avatar
American Sailing: Have you sailed much lately?
Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson: I certainly didn’t step off Ella’s Pink Lady and feel I’d had enough of sailing, if anything my love for it has grown tenfold. Although it is also something I’ve taken increasingly less seriously and I’m no great racing sailor. Since the voyage around the world I went on to other sailing challenges like skippering the youngest crew to compete in the Rolex Sydney to Hobart and in more recent years have enjoyed messing about in dinghy’s, a trailer

ASA Avatar
American Sailing: Since your journey, how do you think sailing has changed?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: Over the last 10 plus years it’s been so fantastic to see women’s participation in sailing really increase. There’s still a long way to go but looking back I really feel we’re making great progress.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: Is there a challenge that comes with becoming such a larger than life figure in the sailing world at a young age?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: The voyage has led to so many incredible things and I’m so grateful for the adventures it’s led to, the fascinating people I’ve met because of it and the friends made along the way.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: You inspired so many young people to believe that anything is possible, do you hope that True Spirit does something similar?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: I so hope that Netflix’s True Spirit movie is uplifting and a reminder for everyone to grab hold of every adventure life has to offer and to audaciously chase your dreams.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: When watching how your sailing skills are portrayed in the film, is it a factual representation of your endeavor?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: I love how closely the boat used in the movie was set up like Ella’s Pink Lady, I’ve always said she’s the real hero who got me safely around the world. Of course, there are plenty of moments where movie magic took priority.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: In the film, your knockdown is dramatized as your boat going stern over bow, is that how you remember it?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: The big storm scene of course includes a little bit of Hollywood movie magic (having said that the ocean in a true state really is an unbelievable sight!). The knockdowns Ella’s Pink Lady and I experienced were all side on/over however it is true that the EPIRB that auto activates if under 15ft of water went off during the worst knockdown. We obviously weren’t underwater as long as it is portrayed in the film, however in a way it is true to the way that time felt like it was standing still!
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: This is a very specific question to your boat, you have a tiller vs. a wheel. Did you find that to be beneficial? (My Ranger 33 has a tiller and I prefer a tiller)
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: Tiller was absolutely the way to go for this boat and voyage, a little less to go wrong and worked better with my wonderful trusty Flemming windvane.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: With the release of this film, there could be another swell of young people who want to take on the challenge of sailing solo around the world. What are your three pieces of advice you would give to any young sailor who sought to replicate your journey?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: There’s a lot of advice I’d love to share with someone wanting to undertake a similar voyage but a few key things would be: 1) shamelessly copy what worked for others 2) always ask for advice 3) and it’s all about the boat, it was absolutely Ella’s Pink Lady that got me there so choose a tough proven boat and make sure she’s set up meticulously.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: As sailors we all have an internal drive that gets us out on the water. Some sailors want to bareboat charter in the Caribbean, others want to race and yet some just want a casual day sail. How can True Spirit attract more people to sailing and the sailing lifestyle?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: Everyone who loves sailing understands there’s just something so special about being on the water on a yacht under the power of sail that keeps drawing us back. One of the things I love most about sailing is that there are so many different ways of doing it and something that works for everyone. You can take racing seriously, twilight sail with mates, explore water ways, etc. I so hope that True Spirit gives a little insight into how beautiful sailing can be.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: How do we attract more young people sailing?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: There’s so many great ‘learn to sail’ programs for young people, personally I think the most important thing is that young people have fun on the water, ideally with friends so they’ve got the basic skills to come back to it as life allows.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: How do we attract more women to sailing?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: It’s great to see professional sailing opening up places for female sailors, the representation is just fantastic making it more visible for women.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: What is the most important scene in True Spirit?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: There’s a scene in True Spirit where Teagan talks about the world being really tough but also beautiful and that resonates with me so much today, how important it is to look for the beauty and how it’s possible to be both vulnerable and tough at the same time. I hope those are messages that also resonate with others.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: Does True Spirit capture your story or do you feel that there is still more to tell?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: There are so many other stories that could be told but I think the movie captures the essence of the voyage. I would have loved to see a number of the real team members featured, but it was only possible to have a limited amount of characters. The sailing adviser character Ben is a sort of amalgamation of a number of real people and he’s one of my favourite things about the movie, it’s so true to how much these particular people meant to me.
ASA Avatar
American Sailing: Why do you sail and Why should people sail?
Jessica Watson
Jessica Watson: I just can’t get my head around the fact that so many people don’t have sailing in their life, the places, adventures and communities it gives are just the best. Sailing is the most amazing mix of nature, mental and physical challenge, adventure and teamwork. I wish people understood that it’s often more accessible than people realize, most boats are always looking for and welcoming of new crew members.

ABOUT THE FILM

True Spirit

Netflix Release Date | February 3, 2023

Synopsis | When the tenacious young sailor Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft) sets out to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world, many expect her to fail. With the support of her sailing coach and mentor Ben Bryant (Cliff Curtis) and her parents (Josh Lawson and Academy Award winner Anna Paquin), Jessica is determined to accomplish what was thought to be impossible, navigating some of the world’s most challenging stretches of ocean over the course of 210 days.

True Spirit is directed by Sarah Spillane, written by Sarah Spillane, Rebecca Banner and Cathy Randall with Debra Martin Chase, Susan Cartsonis and Andrew Fraser serving as producers. Bridget Webb, Vivien Turner, Stacy Clausen and Todd Lasance also co-star in this incredible true story of perseverance and human accomplishment that shows that you are only as big as the dreams you dare to live.

Director | Sarah Spillane

Writers | Sarah Spillane, Rebecca Banner, Cathy Randall

Based On the book by Jessica Watson

Producers | Debra Martin Chase, Susan Cartsonis, Andrew Fraser

Cast | Teagan Croft, Cliff Curtis, Bridget Webb, Vivien Turner, Stacy Clausen, Todd Lasance, with Josh Lawson and Anna Paquin

Garmin