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Brauer Sails Into the Record Books

Thu, 03/07/2024 - 21:06
As dawn broke in A Coruña, Spain, Thursday morning, Cole Brauer sailed First Light into the harbor, completing a 130-day round-the-world journey as part of the Global Solo Challenge.
@globalsolochallenge, @colebraueroceanracing

After successfully completing her 27,759-mile solo nonstop sail around the world last Thursday as part of the Global Solo Challenge, Cole Brauer received myriad Instagram thank-yous for having not only inspired a generation of young women (and at the beginning of International Women’s Month, no less) who might not otherwise have taken up a historically male-dominated sport, but also for having inspired everyone — young and old, male and female.

One commenter, @dlw_lifestories, went so far as to say the 29-year-old former East Hamptoner, who now lives in Maine, “should be the International Person of the World. She should be on magazine covers, tv screens, behind the microphone, she should be everywhere so everyone can be inspired.”

Following her finish, at 8:23 local time in A Coruna, Spain, last Thursday, Marco Nannini, the Global Solo Challenge’s race director, said that “fewer than 200 people have achieved this feat” — sailing solo, nonstop around the world by the three great capes — “since Sir Robin Knox-Johnson became the first to do so in 1969. Cole Brauer is the 18th female and the first U.S. female to enter the history books for one of the toughest sporting endeavors there are. She took 130 days, two hours, and 45 minutes and 38 seconds, setting a new reference time for a solo circumnavigation on a 40-foot boat, improving by around seven days the previous record set by the late Guo Chuan in 2016.”

Sailing aboard First Light, an Owen Clarke-designed Class40 boat, she was the second-place finisher in the Global Solo Challenge, behind Philippe Delamare, who crossed the finish line on Feb. 24.

Sporting a “Wild Feminist” knit cap, Brauer said during a widely-watched Instagram live stream of her final leg that it had been “a crazy experience. . . . I’ve got mixed emotions, it’s very weird. I’ve been at sea for more than four months, I don’t know how to be human. . . . I don’t want to cry . . . yet. My mom,” who was on one of the escort craft, “said she’s already cried. . . . I’ll still be around, you guys, just not sailing around the world. I can’t thank you guys enough for all your comments. I read them all. . . . It was 58 knots last night . . . there were a lot of slow-downs so I could line it up. . . . I need a mani and a facial, and I need to get my teeth cleaned, really cleaned. . . . The smell of land hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Brauer graduated from East Hampton High School and as she posted almost daily Instagram updates on her @colebraueroceanracing page, people who knew her here watched her journey especially closely. “I’m so terribly proud of her,” said Alice Wood of the East Hampton Farm Museum, who used to babysit for the celebrated sailor and her twin sister, Dalton, beginning when they were infants. “She and her sister were always used to the water, they could swim from the age of 5. When they were 7, they swam in the ocean. I know because they had me take them down there, from the bay to Indian Wells. I told them I couldn’t swim in the ocean. I made sure they swam near the lifeguards. . . . They were fine, but I was a nervous wreck.”

Jim Stewart, who taught Cole’s father, David, and later Cole herself, in East Hampton High’s health class, said of the Global Solo Challenge’s runner-up, “We were beyond thrilled to see and hear Cole sail into the harbor. She showed us many things throughout her journey — her hopes and fears, her unbelievable courage and confidence, her joy and patience, her heart and internal fortitude. Her strengths were on display for all to appreciate. . . . Everyone benefits from hearing her story. We are lucky to have her and her experience in our lifetimes!”

Yani Cuesta, who coaches girls track at East Hampton High, said she remembered Brauer, who ran the 800 here, as “wanting to be really, really good at something. . . . She’s a great example of not giving up. She found the thing she was passionate about at the University of Hawaii, and she worked her tail off. What an adventure, what a historical feat! I’m beyond excited for her.”

“What a ride!” a 76-year-old grandmother of six posted. “You’re such a joy and inspiration. I await your book! And I hope you’re going to visit high schools around the country to inspire young women. You brought tears to my eyes as you waved your flares.”

Nannini wrote that he choked up when he spotted First Light’s lights in the pre-dawn dark, his heart “skipping a beat.”

“She didn’t just take the opportunity that the Global Solo Challenge offered,” he added, “she totally owned it. . . . Cole has been breaking through media channels worldwide like no one I’ve seen before.”

Among those media outlets awaiting her at the dock, said Nannini, were “ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, Fox News, all the sailing websites in Europe and around the world, and many more.”

“The world is your oyster, Cole!” @emily20swim wrote. “I hope you get some rest soon.”

After having been more than four months at sea, Brauer said on her arrival that all she wanted was a cappuccino and a croissant.

Nannini wrote that after docking, Cole “slammed a magnum of champagne on the dock and generated an explosion of spray and joy that drew in all those who were welcoming her. It was a jubilee of a celebration,” during which Delamare, a 61-year-old Frenchman who has far more sailing miles under his belt, presented her with a trophy and hugged her.

“You could feel the reverence from one to the other,” wrote @gracefullyawakening, who added “there was so much respect on both their parts. She is full of goodness and makes each one of us feel that we are too. Fit and fruity, salty and rad, Cole is soooo much more than any social media gab. She reflects the level of courage, resilience, truth, and joy that is so needed in this enigmatic world.”

“Fair winds, Cole,” wrote Nannini. “We wish you every success, and you will forgive us if in the future we go around bragging about how we had the pleasure to meet you.”

This story has been updated since it was first published.

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