A teenage girl who has become the youngest person to sail unassisted around the world was given a hero's welcome when she arrived in Sydney today.
Jessica Watson, 16, was met by tens of thousands of people including the Australian Prime Minister waving flags and calling her name as she pulled into the harbour.
The plucky teenager spent seven months at sea and travelled 23,000 nautical miles to achieve a childhood dream.
She had to battle enormous waves at times and fight boredom during calm weather as well as shrug off the words of critics who said she would never do it,
There were dire warnings that her quest was doomed to failure when she collided with a cargo ship off the Queensland coast while preparing for her incredible journey.
Experienced sailors said she'd be lucky to even get away from Australian waters.
But today, as her 34ft yacht Pink Lady was escorted into the harbour by a flotilla of dozens of spectator craft, her critics were silenced.
Her achievement at becoming the youngest person to sail around the world unassisted has set her up for hundreds of thousands of pounds in sponsorships, a documentary and a book - and won the hearts of most Australians including PM Kevin Rudd.
He was at the Opera House, along with other politicians, Jessica's parents Julie and Roger who had travelled to Sydney from their Queensland home, and captains of industry as the tiny yacht battled through one last hurdle - heavy seas and a torn mainsail as she came through the mouth of the outer harbour, delaying her expected arrival by two hours.
Despite the incredible welcome she received, Jessica insisted that her achievement was not about setting a record but following a dream.
'I'm still just Jess,' she said by satellite phone as she neared her destination.
'She was always going to be ‘our Jess’, despite this achievement' said her mother as, with the Opera House in sight at the end of her voyage, the teenager, overwhelmed by the enormous welcome, commented: 'I think there's going to be a great party.'
Her voyage will not be registered as a record in any case in order to discourage ambitious parents pushing younger children off to sea.
What she wanted to do was prove to other young people that they did not have to be anyone special to achieve something big.
You just have to want it,' she said. Her parents were the first to greet her as she stepped onto a pink carpet on the Opera House forecourt.
The tears flowed as she told them how happy she was to see them again. They laughed as she struggled to stand up after so many weeks at sea.
'You're back and you did it,' said her mother. Jessica brushed back a tear as she turned to look at the yacht that had served her so faithfully during her epic voyage that had begun and ended in Sydney.
The Prime Minister gave Jessica a hug in front of the enormous crowd at the Opera House, then described her as 'Australia's newest hero.'
Welcoming her back to dry land, he said she might feel a little wobbly on her feet but in the eyes of all Australians she now stood tall.
You are a hero for all Australians, for all Australian women,' he said. 'You do our nation proud...you have lived your dream.'
Mr Rudd added: 'This is a great day for our country. You do all of our hearts proud.'
As a special prize, he raised laughter when he presented Jessica with a kit for a free driving lesson, as she looks forward to learning how to drive a car.
Once she has recovered her landlubber legs, Jessica plans to celebrate with English teenager Mike Perham and Australian Jesse Martin, two young sailors who hold solo circumnavigation records.
Among the crowds was 89-year-old Patrick Lee who, dressed in Australian flags, sailing badges and a Neptune pitchfork, said: 'I'm an old bloke who's turned up to say thanks for what Jessica did.
It's an amazing achievement and an inspiration to both young and old.'
In her blog as she neared the Australian coast, Jessica wrote jokingly that she was going to miss getting up and going sailing every day.
'I'm going to miss the kick I get from overcoming challenges by myself, flying along in the dark.
'A new sunset every night and the time I always take to watch it. I'm going to miss watching the waves and sea.
'I know it's been nearly seven months and I'm still not bored by it.'