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Cole Brauer becomes first American woman to sail solo, nonstop around world

Cole Brauer becomes first American woman to sail solo, nonstop around world

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

A joyful Cole Brauer returned in her boat Thursday to A Coruña, 130 days after sailing away from the Spanish port city.

Completing the epic voyage made the 29-year-old the first American woman to sail around the world nonstop, with no one else aboard. Brauer’s solo feat, which unfolded over approximately 30,000 miles, was also good for a second-place finish in rigorous Global Solo Challenge.

“Amazing finish!!!! So stoked!” Brauer wrote on Instagram. “Thank you to everyone that came together and made this process possible.”

Brauer provided regular updates on her voyage, which began Oct. 29, as her Instagram following burgeoned from less than 100,000 to almost half a million. Along the way, the East Hampton, N.Y., native shared battles with high winds, monstrous waves and maintenance issues on her Class 40 monohull, named “First Light.”

The 5-2, 100-pound sailor, who learned to sail at the University of Hawaii, posted clips of herself getting bruised ribs when suddenly flung across the interior of her boat and self-administering fluids intravenously to ward off dehydration. Her journey took her around the three great capes — Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and South America’s treacherous Cape Horn — and through Point Nemo, an area in the Pacific Ocean so far from any land that the nearest humans are often orbiting overhead in the International Space Station.

According to race organizer Marco Nannini, over half of the 16 entrants in this installment of the event have had to retire before completing it. One passed a kidney stone at sea, per Nannini, before making landfall in New Zealand for medical assistance, and another was semi-submerged and out of contact for “24 very long hours prior to rescue” after a collision in the remote Pacific.

Brauer joins a group of fewer than 200 people known to have sailed solo around the world without stopping. The first, according to a list maintained by the International Association of Cape Horners, was England’s Robin Knox-Johnston in 1969.

The first woman to accomplish the feat, per Nannini, was Australia’s Kay Cottee in 1988. Brauer is the 18th.

“It was a long and emotional day,” Nannini wrote Thursday, “which started well before sunrise after a sleepless night monitoring Cole’s progress, meeting her at sea, watching her sail at First Light into A Coruna and celebrating her outstanding achievement. Well done Cole!”

Brauer was the youngest competitor in the Global Solo Challenge field — and the only woman. Of making her mark in a “fully male-dominated world,” as she put it in a recent interview with NBC, Brauer said, “I think that it takes a lot of strength to actually push and to strive into this industry, and I really want women to understand that it’s possible.”

“It would be amazing if there was just one other girl that saw me and said, ‘Oh, I can do that, too,’” she said.

She had lived a life of adventure. Then came the ultimate sailing race.

Last year, Brauer won the opening leg of the One-Two Yacht Race, which involved sailing solo from Rhode Island to Bermuda. All competitors picked up a second sailor for the return trip, and Brauer finished first again with teammate Catherine Chimney as they became the first all-female duo to win the race overall.

Each leg of that competition took approximately three days, barely a toe in the water compared to the duration of Brauer’s just-completed circumnavigation, but the first three days of the Global Solo Challenge were some of the hardest for her. She endured a “pretty rough, rough, rough start” making her way around the Spanish coast after departing A Coruña, an experience she described on Instagram as a “trial by fire.”

The second day of the event began with Brauer vomiting — “I’ve never had seasickness before in my life,” she told her followers, adding that she may have suffered from food poisoning — and shortly thereafter she gave herself the IV on the advice of her medical team.

Brauer shared plenty of posts in her usually upbeat demeanor, but a Dec. 8 video found her “angry that things keep going wrong” with her boat. “Right now, I have been feeling just broken,” Brauer said with emotion. But she was smiling at the camera the next day while engaging in some “self care” as some technical issues got ironed out.

By Christmas Eve, Brauer was past Cape Leeuwin, close to the halfway point of the journey as she began the long, challenging stretch across the Pacific. After dodging some strong weather systems and enduring others, she passed Cape Horn and was finally back in the Atlantic in late January. Of course, there were still some “horrendous conditions” to deal with, but Brauer also shared excitement about the media coverage her exploits were attracting.

“So excited to move sailing into the mainstream!” Brauer wrote on Instagram late last month. “For far too long sailing and racing has been in the shadows maybe partially due to its attempts to keep its ‘traditions’ but those ‘traditions’ have also pushed really amazing sailors out of the industry due to burn out rates and unnecessary exclusivity. This hasn’t been easy one bit but it makes it all worth it to see that we are taking this industry from the dark and bringing it into the light.”

After making her long-awaited return to dry land, she told NBC, “It was really emotional, because I see my parents, I see my friends, my family — I see everyone — and this dream has become a reality.”



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