SYDNEY (AP) - A 16-year-old Australian who braved boat knockdowns and seven months of solitude on a sail around the world set foot on dry land outside the Sydney Opera House on Saturday and quickly set an earthier goal - getting her driver's license.
Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted when she cruised into Sydney Harbour in her pink, 34-foot yacht to a rock-star welcome.
She successfully maneuvered her boat through raging storms, 40-foot waves and seven knockdowns during the 23,000 nautical mile journey that critics thought she wouldn't survive.
"Amazingly, I just enjoyed it much, much more than I ever thought I would and handled the challenges better than I thought," Watson middle of a storm, you're being knocked down - you can't fall apart."
After standing on land for the first time in 210 days, the teen said she's eager to learn how to drive a car, to eat fresh fruit and salad after months of packaged meals, get a full night's sleep instead of catnaps and shake off her sea legs with a long walk on the beach.
"You will pass your driving test with flying colors," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd assured Watson, who laughed along with a crowd of thousands, many wearing pink or waving pink flags in honor of her yacht, Ella's Pink Lady.
It was a lighthearted moment in an emotional day for Watson, who admitted she was overwhelmed by the attention after so much solitude.
Minutes earlier, she wept with relief after stepping off the yacht and into the arms of her tearful parents, whose decision to let their daughter attempt the feat was dubbed an act of insanity by some.
"People don't think you're capable of these things - they don't realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," she told the crowd. "It's amazing, when you take away those expectations, what you can do."
Watson, from Buderim, north of Brisbane in Queensland state, sailed out of Sydney on Oct. 18 despite protests by critics that she was too young and inexperienced for the treacherous journey.
Her parents maintained that she was well-prepared and noted she has been sailing since age 8. "She said she'd sail around the world, and she has," a tearful Julie Watson said from a nearby boat as she watched her grinning daughter cruise past the finish line. "She's home."
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