Sailor Cole Brauer makes history as the first American woman to race solo around the world – NBC News

4 minutes, 10 seconds Read

Profile
Sections
tv
Featured
More From NBC
Follow NBC News
There are no new alerts at this time
Aboard her 40-foot racing boat First Light29-year-old Cole Brauer just became the first American woman to race nonstop around the world by herself.
The New York native pulled into A Coruña, Spain, on Thursday after a treacherous 30,000-mile journey that took 130 days.
She thanked a cheering crowd of family and fans who had been waiting for her on shore.
“This is really cool and so overwhelming in every sense of the word,” she exclaimed, before drinking Champagne from her trophy.
The 5-foot-2 powerhouse placed second out of 16 avid sailors who competed in the Global Solo Challenge, a circumnavigation race that started in A Coruña with participants from 10 countries. The first-of-its-kind event allowed a wide range of boats to set off in successive departures based on performance characteristics. Brauer started on Oct. 29, sailing down the west coast of Africa, over to Australia, and around the tip of South America before returning to Spain.
Brauer is the only woman and the youngest competitor in the event — something she hopes young girls in and out of the sport can draw inspiration from.
“It would be amazing if there was just one girl that saw me and said, ‘Oh, I can do that too,’” Brauer said of her history-making sail.
It’s a grueling race, and more than half of the competitors have dropped out so far. One struck something that caused his boat to flood, and another sailor had to abandon his ship after a mast broke as a severe storm was moving in.
The four-month journey is fraught with danger, including navigating the three “Great Capes” of Africa, Australia and South America. Rounding South America’s Cape Horn, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet, is often likened to climbing Mount Everest because of its perfect storm of hazards — a sharp rise in the ocean floor and whipping westerly winds push up massive waves. Combined with the frigid waters and stray icebergs, the area is known as a graveyard for ships, according to NASA. Brauer said she was “so unbelievably stoked” when she sailed past Cape Horn in January.
Marco Nannini, organizer of the Global Solo Challenge, said the comparison to scaling Mount Everest doesn’t capture the difficulty of the race. Sailing solo means not just being a skipper but a project manager — steering the boat, fixing equipment, understanding the weather and maintaining one’s physical health.
Nannini cited the relatively minuscule number of people who have sailed around the world solo — 186, according to the International Association of Cape Horners — as evidence of the challenges that competitors face. More than 6,000 people have climbed Mount Everest, according to High Adventure Expeditions.
Brauer stared down 30-foot waves that had enough force to throw her across the boat. In a scare caught on camera, she badly injured her rib near the halfway point of the event. At another point, her team in the U.S. directed Brauer to insert an IV into her own arm due to dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea.
She was able to stay in constant communication with members of her team, most of whom are based in New England, and keep herself entertained with Netflix and video calls with family through Starlink satellites. That’s also how Brauer was able to use Zoom to connect with NBC News for an interview, while she was sailing about 1,000 miles west of the Canary Islands.
While Brauer was technically alone on First Light, she had the company of 450,000 followers on Instagram, where she frequently got candid about life on an unforgiving sea while reflecting on her journey.
“It all makes it worth it when you come out here, you sit on the bow, and you see how beautiful it is,” she said in an Instagram video, before panning the camera to reveal the radiant sunrise.
Brauer grew up on Long Island but didn’t learn to sail until she went to college in Hawaii. She traded in her goal of becoming a doctor for life on the water. But she quickly learned making a career as a sailor is extremely difficult, with professional racers often hesitant to welcome a 100-pound young woman on their team.
Even when she was trying to find sponsors for the Global Solo Challenge, she said a lot of people “wouldn’t touch her with a 10-foot pole” because they saw her as a “liability.”
Brauer’s message to the skeptics and naysayers? “Watch me.”
“I push so much harder when someone’s like, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ or ‘You’re too small,’” Brauer explained.
“The biggest asset is your mental strength, not the physical one,” Nannini said. “Cole is showing everyone that.”
Brauer hopes to continue competing professionally and is already eyeing another around-the-world competition, but not before she gets her hands on a croissant and cappuccino.
“My mouth is watering just thinking about that.”
Emilie Ikeda is an NBC News correspondent.
© 2024 NBC UNIVERSAL

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply