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Cole Brauer Becomes First American Woman to Sail Solo Around the World

Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP via Getty Images
Sebastien Salom-Gomis/AFP via Getty Images

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea—and became the first American woman to sail alone non-stop around the world. Cole Brauer, 29, of Long Island, New York, made history on Thursday after sailing into A Coruńa, Spain, four months after striking out of the same harbor on the Global Solo Challenge, a treacherous 30,000-mile journey that saw her traverse three oceans.

Brauer, 5-foot-2 and 100 pounds soaking wet, was the youngest and only female competitor among the 16 people who competed in the challenge. She placed second in the race, which took her 130 days to complete.

She and her 40-foot sailboat, dubbed First Light, were met by a crowd of jubilant family, friends, and admirers. “This is really cool and so overwhelming in every sense of the word,” NBC News quoted her as saying as she drank Champagne from her trophy.

Brauer set out from A Coruńa on Oct. 29, sailing down Africa’s western coast and around the Cape of Good Hope before making her way east towards Australia. She rounded South America’s notorious Cape Horn before finally heading back towards Spain.

She kept her audience of more than 400,000 Instagram followers up to date along the way, posting frank updates as to the brutal conditions she was enduring. In one terrifying caught-on-camera moment, Brauer was thrown across her boat as it was tossed by 30-foot waves, landing so hard that one of her ribs cracked.

“I don’t want you guys to think I’m like Superwoman or something,” she said in a video posted shortly after, saying she had to keep making repairs and recalibrations despite feeling “broken.”

“It’s all part of the journey, and I’m sure I’ll be feeling better once the work is done and I’ve gotten some sleep,” she wrote in the caption. “But right now things are tough.”

Speaking on NBC’s Today on Thursday from Spain, Brauer explained to the hosts, “There really is no option at that point. You’re so far away from land—there is no rescue, there’s nobody to come and grab you. You kinda just have to keep moving along.”

More than half of the Global Solo Challenge’s sailors have dropped out so far, according to NBC News. Brauer said she hoped that her big finish could inspire younger women to get into sailing—and start busting records of their own. “It would be amazing if there was just one girl that saw me and said, ‘Oh, I can do that too,’” she told NBC.

With her voyage at an end, Brauer told WBZ-TV on Thursday that she was excited to enjoy a cappuccino and croissant on dry land. It seemed like she wasn’t quite ready to rest on her laurels, however. “It hasn’t really hit me yet. Everyone’s so excited, but for me it hasn't really sunk in that I now hold these records,” she said in a statement. “It just feels like I went for a little sail, and now I’m back.”

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