Is True Spirit on Netflix a true story? Who is Jessica Watson - events series was inspired by explained

Anna Paquin and Teagan Croft star in Netflix drama True Spirit about an Australian teenager’s dream of sailing non-stop around the world

Teegan Croft stars as teenage adventurer Jessica Watson in the new Netflix biopic True Spirit. The film, directed by Sydney native Sarah Spillane, follows Watson on her attempt to become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe by boat solo.

True Spirit follows recent uplifting Netflix original biopics The Swimmers and Bank of Dave, and features an Australian and New Zealand cast including True Blood star Anna Paquin and Avatar: The Way of the Water actor Cliff Curtis.

Watson was involved in the production of the film about her adventure, and was reportedly even allowed to keep the replica of the boat used for filming - this is everything you need to know about True Spirit and the real events it is based on.

Is True Spirit based on a true story?

True Spirit is a dramatisation of Australian teenager, Jessica Watson’s attempt to become the youngest person ever to complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe.

The film follows Watson from her decision to take on the huge challenge, which is recognised as the Everest of sailing (although more people have summited Mount Everest than have circumnavigated the globe bay sail), and along her 210-day voyage.

Teagan Croft in True SpiritTeagan Croft in True Spirit
Teagan Croft in True Spirit

True Spirit explores the opposition Watson faced, as many expected her to fail, but also shows how she relied on the support of her coach Ben Bryant (played by Cliff Curtis) and parents Julie (Anna Paquin) and Roger (Josh Lawson).

Over the course of Watson’s journey, as shown in the movie, she travels on a treacherous journey, crossing three oceans and passing the four capes all whilst living independently in her sailboat.

Who is Jessica Watson?

Jessica Watson OAM is a 29 year old Australian sailor who embarked on the epic quest of completing a solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2009 when she was just 16. She was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her efforts.

Watson departed from Sydney in October 2009 in her 10 metre long boat, which she christened Ella’s Pink Lady. On her voyage she crossed the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, returning to Sydney in May 2010, three days before she turned 17.

Teagan Croft (left) and Jessica Watson on the set of True SpiritTeagan Croft (left) and Jessica Watson on the set of True Spirit
Teagan Croft (left) and Jessica Watson on the set of True Spirit

Watson completed the solo voyage, sailing more than 23,000 nautical miles (the girth of the Earth at the equator is 21,600 nautical miles), but her record was found not to count because she did not travel far enough north of the equator. The record for the youngest person to complete a solo circumnavigation is Dutch sailor Laura Dekker who did so in 2011, aged 16.

Watson’s defenders suggested that because she crossed all meridians of longitude, crossed the equator twice, and returned to the same place that she started the voyage, her achievement should be recognised.

Undaunted by her experience following her circumnavigation attempt, Watson has continued to take on new sailing challenges. She took part in the Minis Fastnet race in Europe in 2011, and later that year, completed the Round Island Race in the UK, the Sydney Gold Coast Race, and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

During the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Watson met Cameron Dale and the pair began dating. They remained together for a decade, but in 2021 Dale tragically died from a stroke.

Watson has written two books, True Spirit: The Aussie Girl Who Took on the World, about her circumnavigation attempt, and Indigo Blue, a fictional adventure novel about a girl from a sleepy lakeside village who throws herself into a renovation project on her rundown yacht.

When is True Spirit on Netflix?

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