Senior sailor follows in Watson's wake

By Sarah Collerton
Updated Wed May 26, 2010 11:43am AEST
Warner Ferguson: 'It's all about just doing your thing. Life is too jolly short'. (Cairns Post: Sean Davey)

A Queensland grandfather is attempting to follow in Jessica Watson's wake.
Earlier this month, teen sailor Watson, 16, became the youngest person to sail around the world, solo, non-stop and unassisted.

Now Warner Ferguson, 73, wants to become the oldest person to do just that.

The Cairns Yacht Club commodore has six decades of experience behind him, but this is the longest journey he has ever attempted.

"It's the most daunting of tasks because you have to commit yourself to seven to nine months of solo sailing," he told ABC News Online.

"No matter what age you are, it's a commitment of large proportions."

But Mr Ferguson did not aim to be the oldest sailor, it just turned out that way.

"My intention to sail around the world seems to have coincided with mature age, I suppose," he said.

The furthest Mr Ferguson has ever sailed solo is 2,000 nautical miles, but this mammoth journey will be upwards of 20,000 nautical miles.

The record is currently held by 71-year-old Japanese sailor Minoru Saito, but New Zealand-born Ferguson is confident he can trump that.

"It's a matter of putting your foot in the puddle and just being confident within yourself and having a go," he said.

"It's all about just doing your thing. Life is too jolly short."
In the same boat

Originally Mr Ferguson wanted to take Watson's 10-metre yacht, Ella's Pink Lady, around the world right after her, thinking it would be nice for the "oldest to follow the youngest".

"I approached Pink Lady's owner [Don McIntyre] and he responded nicely, but I don't think it's going to happen," he said.

"I think the boat's too valuable now to let an old fart like me choof off around the world in it. Nevertheless, we'll see what happens."

But Mr Ferguson said he would be just as happy to see the boat go to a museum.

"It's a fine, fine boat sailed by a very courageous young girl. I have a huge amount of time for her," he said.

Mr Ferguson first met Watson in Cairns in 2008 and they went sailing together.

"At that stage, she was working hard to get support to sail around the world," he said.

"Do not discourage someone like that. I commend entirely her parents and Jessica herself. She's great stuff."

And like Watson, Mr Ferguson reckons he will keep up with the times by writing a blog and video posts.

He intends to set sail before September next year and is training hard and staying in good shape.

"My kids and grandkids are totally supportive," he said.

"They just want me to get it over and done with so we can have yum cha in Sydney when I get back."