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

Aboard her 40-foot racing boat First Light ,  29-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.

A record on the high seas: Cole Brauer becomes first US woman to sail solo around the world

solo around the world sailboat race

On Thursday, Cole Brauer made history, becoming the first American woman to sail solo nonstop around the world. The 29-year-old from Long Island, New York, celebrated at the finish line in Spain by drinking champagne from her trophy.

Friends, peers and sailing enthusiasts had been cheering Brauer on since last October, when she embarked on her more than four-month journey.

Race organizer Marco Nannini told USA TODAY he started the Global Solo Challenge to "create a platform for sailors like Cole to showcase her skills and move on to a pro sailor career."

While at sea Brauer kept her more than 400,000 Instagram followers updated − and entertained − with videos from onboard First Light. The trip was extremely challenging and physically exhausting, Brauer said in one video from December.

In the post, she describes how frustrated she felt when she had to fix and replace different parts of the boat.

"I don't want you guys to think I'm like Superwoman or something," Brauer said. "Right now I've been feeling just broken," she added, describing how she had to fix the boat's autopilot system after injuring her torso against the side of the boat's hull amid intense waves.

Who is Cole Brauer?

Brauer is from Long Island and competed for the University of Hawaii sailing team. She went to high school in East Hampton, New York, her university team website says. She was the youngest of more than a dozen sailors, or skippers, in the Global Solo Challenge.

The professional sailor lives in Boothbay, Maine, and during the spring and summer, she can be also found in Newport, Rhode Island, gearing up for races, the Newport Daily News reported last year .

Brauer has sailed on First Light, a 40-foot yacht, for over five years, the outlet reported.

"I always said I wanted to race around the world in this boat," she told the newspaper.

From above and below First Light's deck, Brauer shared aspects of her journey with followers and die-hard sailing fans.

On New Year's Eve, she donned a dress and danced at midnight , and in another post, she showed off how many pull-ups she can do.

As the only woman racing solo, nonstop around the world in the first Global Solo Challenge, Brauer said she was determined to prove there's nothing women and girls cannot accomplish.

"I push so much harder when someone's like, 'No, you can't do that,'" Brauer told NBC Nightly News . "And I'm like, 'OK, watch me.'"

Brauer is the first American woman to sail solo around the world. But Kay Cottee of Australia was the first woman in the world to accomplish the milestone, sailing off from Sydney Harbor in Australia in November 1987 and returning 189 days later.

On her profile page on the Global Solo Challenge website, Brauer said she wanted to send a message to the sailing community that it's time to leave its male-dominated culture in the past. In the profile, Brauer took aim at a lack of equal pay and what she describes as harassment in the sailing industry.

"Just as well as this community has built me up it has broken me and my fellow female teammates down. I am doing this race for them," Brauer said.

Brauer and her spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

How long was Cole Brauer at sea?

Brauer was sailing for over four months after departing on Oct. 29.

She finished second in the race, behind a sailor who departed about a month before she did.

The start times differed because that first place boat, Phillipe Delamare's Mowgli, is much slower, Nannini said, explaining the race's staggered start times.

"The format means that if you enter on a slow, small boat you can still win, which makes it much more inclusive than an event where a bigger budget is a definite advantage," he said.

France's Delamare will win first-place prize money of 7,500 euros (about $8,140), Brauer will win 5,000 euros (about $5,430) and the third place finisher will win 2,500 euros (about $2,710), Nannini said.

How dangerous was Cole Brauer's sailing race?

A medical team including a nurse and a physician trained Brauer and sent her on her journey with medicines and medical supplies, in case of any health issues, according to her Instagram account.

Early in the race, Brauer administered her own IV with a saline solution after she became dehydrated, according to one video posted to her social media.

Brauer's most serious health scare happened in early December when she said gnarly ocean conditions caused the boat to jolt, throwing her across the inside of the boat and slamming her hard against a wall.

Her ribs were badly bruised as a result, and her medical team told her to alternate between taking Advil and Tylenol, Brauer said on Instagram.

"Rigging up a sleeping seat belt has been added to my priority list," she said in the post's caption. "I know I'm very lucky that this wasn't a lot worse."

What is the Global Solo Challenge?

The inaugural Global Solo Challenge is a nonstop sailing race in which competitors departed last year from A Coruña, Spain.

The race encompasses nearly 30,000 miles and takes place mostly in the southern hemisphere.

After leaving waters off the coast of Spain, sailors travel south and around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. The race then includes the two other capes that together make up the famous three great capes: Australia's Cape Leeuwin and South America's Cape Horn.

About half of the other competitors dropped out of the race, according to racing data posted online by the Global Solo Challenge.

Delamare finished the race late last month after embarking on his journey in late September 2023, according to race data.

Contributing: Associated Press

New York Vendée 2024

The Vendée Globe switches to American time

Bpgo, from the figaro circuit to the vendée globe, icebergs, navigation and sea level.

Text : One globe one ocean, with a texture of sea, and a pinguin

One globe, one ocean

The Vendée Globe aims to use the media impact of the event to raise public awareness of ocean conservation throughout the round-the-world race. By sailing around the world, the Vendée Globe sailors are highlighting the fragility of our oceans faced with global warming. They are direct witnesses to the changes underway, particularly around Antarctica, a region that is under particular threat.

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Soft mobility

The Vendée Globe adventure doesn't start in Les Sables d'Olonne! It starts from home, by using a low-carbon mode of transport to get to the race village. The organisers have set up a mobility committee to bring together all the public and private players involved and propose soft mobility solutions for getting to the village.

44 candidates

IMOCA Nexans-Wewise

Fabrice Amedeo

Imoca Fortinet - Best Western

Romain Attanasio

Imoca Stand as one

Éric Bellion

Imoca Maitre Coq 5

Yannick Bestaven

Imoca Charal

Jérémie Beyou

Imoca La mie Câline

Arnaud Boissières

Imoca Bureau Vallée

Louis Burton

Imoca Imagine

Conrad Colman


Antoine Cornic

Imoca Coup de cœur

Manuel Cousin

Imoca l'Occitane

Clarisse Crémer

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Charlie Dalin

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Imoca Fives

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Benjamin Ferré


Sam Goodchild

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François Guiffant

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James Harayda

Imoca Medallia

Oliver Heer


Boris Herrmann


Isabelle Joschke

Imoca Jean le Cam

Jean Le Cam


Tanguy Le Turquais

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Nicolas Lunven


Sébastien Marsset

Imoca Biotherm en navigation

Paul Meilhat

TeamWork - Team Snef

Justine Mettraux


Giancarlo Pedote

Imoca Paprec Arkea

Yoann Richomme

Imoca Hublot

Thomas Ruyant

Imoca Apicil en navigation

Damien Seguin

Imoca OceansLab - Cleantech Accelerator

Kojiro Shiraishi

Imoca Groupe Dubreuil

Sébastien Simon


Maxime Sorel


Guirec Soudée

Horizon sur mer calme

Nicolas Troussel

Imoca D'Ieteren Group

Denis Van Weynbergh

Imoca New Europe

Szabolcs Weöres

Imoca Singchain Team Haikou

What is the Vendée Globe?

The Vendée Globe is a single-handed, non-stop, non-assisted round-the-world sailing race that takes place every four years. It is contested on IMOCA monohulls, which are 18 metres long. The skippers set off from Les Sables-d'Olonne in Vendée and sail around 45,000 kilometres around the globe, rounding the three legendary capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and finally Cape Horn) before returning to Les Sables d'Olonne. The race has acquired an international reputation, attracting skippers from all over the world. Beyond the competition, it is above all an incredible human adventure.

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10 things to know about the 2022 Golden Globe Race

  • Katy Stickland
  • August 11, 2022

Follow the build-up to the 2022 Golden Globe Race as the skippers prepare to race solo around the world without the use of modern technology

The 2022 Golden Globe Race started on 4 September 2022. The 2018 race started on 1 July 2018. The change in the start date is to prevent boats entering the Southern Ocean too early. Credit: © Ville des Sables d'Olonne - Christophe Huchet

The 2022 Golden Globe Race started on 4 September 2022. The 2018 race started on 1 July 2018. The change in the start date is to prevent boats entering the Southern Ocean too early. Credit: © Ville des Sables d'Olonne - Christophe Huchet Credit: © Ville des Sables d'Olonne - Christophe Huchet

What is the 2022 Golden Globe Race?

The 2022 Golden Globe Race is a solo, nonstop yacht race around the world with no assistance and without the use of modern technology.

This means the skippers can’t use GPS, chartplotters , electric winches , autopilots , mobile phones, iPads or use synthetic materials like Spectra, Kevlar or Vectron.

Their only means of communication is via registered, licensed maritime-approved HF Single Side Band (SSB) Radio , with discussions generally limited to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) weather. They are allowed to listen to HAM radio, but are not allowed to transmit.

A man using a sextant to navigate on the deck of a boat

All of the Golden Globe Race skippers must use paper charts and sextants to navigate. Modern technology, like GPS and chartplotters, are banned. Credit: GGR

Each skipper is allowed a weather fax to receive weather charts.

They can only navigate using paper charts and a sextant, which is used to determine the angle between the horizon and a celestial body, such as the sun, moon or a star, to determine the boat’s longitude and latitude. All their calculations and celestial navigation notes need to be kept for inspection after the race. Failure to do so may result in disqualification.

When does it start?

The 2022 Golden Globe Race will start on 4 September 2022 from the port of Les Sables d’Olonne on France ‘s Atlantic coast.

How many skippers are taking part?

To enter the 2022 Golden Globe Race, skippers must be over 18 and have at least 8,000 miles ocean sailing experience, another 2,000 miles singlehanded , in any boat, as well as an additional 2,000 miles solo in their Golden Globe Race boat.

There are 16 skippers who are confirmed for the start. Four of them are from the UK including professional skipper Guy Waites , 54, Mini Transat veteran, Simon Curwen , 62, and Clipper Round the World Race sailor, Ian Herbert-Jones , 52.

The UK has by far the most entries in the race. Pat Lawless , 65, is Ireland’s only entrant.

Kirsten Neuschäfer’s longest solo passage to date is a 67-day trip from Portugal to South Africa, with only windvane self-steering

Kirsten Neuschäfer has Southern Ocean experience, having worked for Skip Novak. Credit: Kirsten Neuschäfer

Kirsten Neuschafer , 39, will be representing South Africa, and is the only woman taking part in the race.

Guy DeBoer , 66, from the USA, France’s Damien Guillou , 39, and Austria’s Michael Guggenberger , 44, have previous race experience.

Others like Arnaud Gaist , 50, from France, and Edward Walentynowicz , 68, are long term cruisers.

The youngest skipper is Elliot Smith , 27, (USA) whilst Jeremy Bagshaw , 59, (South Africa) is racing in the race’s smallest yacht, the OE32.

A sailor on the deck of his boat before the 2022 Golden Globe Race. Credit: GGR/Ertan Beskardes

2018 skipper Ertan Beskardes will be on the start line for the 2022 Golden Globe Race. Credit: GGR/Ertan Beskardes

Some of the skippers who took part in the 2018 event are also back to race again – UK skipper Ertan Beskardes , 60, Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen , 64, who came fifth in 2018, Australian Mark Sinclair , 63, and Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy , 43, who was left with a broken back after his boat dismasted in the Southern Indian Ocean.

What boats will be raced during the event?

Skippers were allowed to choose from a range of pre-1988 yachts, with hull lengths from 32-36ft and full length keels with rudders attached to the trailing edge.

They include the Westsail 32, Tradewind 35, Saga 34, Saltram Saga 36, Vancouver 32, OE 32, Eric (sister ship to Suhaili), Aries 32, Baba 35, Biscay 36 , Bowman 36 , Cape Dory 36, Nicholson 32 MKX-XI, Rustler 36, Endurance 35 , Gaia 36, Hans Christian 33T, Tashiba 36, Cabo Rico 34, Hinckley Pilot 35, Lello 34 and Gale Force 34.

The Rustler 36, which won the 2018 Golden Globe Race, is the most popular, with four taking part.

A Rustler 36 which is taking part in the 2022 Golden Globe race

Four Rustler 36s will be taking part in the 2022 Golden Globe Race – the most popular boat chosen for the race. Credit: Yann Riou – polaRYSE / PRB

There are also two Biscay 36s and two Tradewind 35s.

Other yachts in the race include the Lello 34, OE32, Gale Force 34, Gaia 36, Cape George Cutter CG36, Tashiba 36, Barbican 33 Mk2 and Saltram Saga 36.

The suitability of the boats to survive the Golden Globe Race lies with the skippers.

All the boats have to undergo refits and survey to make sure they can stand up to the rigours of sailing offshore and ocean passages.

Ian Herbert-Jones

Most of the skippers in the 2022 Golden Globe Race, like Ian Herbert-Jones, have done much of the refit work on their boats themselves. Credit: Ian Herbert-Jones

The refit must stay true to the original design; mast height, boom length, bowsprits and ballast are not allowed to exceed original design specifications.

Owners are allowed to strengthen the vessel and have extra standing rigging .

What is the 2022 Golden Globe Race route?

solo around the world sailboat race

The Golden Globe Race course for 2022. For this edition there will be four gates. Credit: Ocean Frontiers OGR/ GGR/CG580

The skippers will leave from Les Sables d’Olonne in France and have to sail around the world, returning to the French port.

During their circumnavigation, they will have to sail around four compulsory rounding marks: Lanzarote, Cape Town in South Africa, Hobart in Australia and Punta del Este in Uruguay.

They will also have to keep the island of Trinidade to port as they sail down the South Atlantic.

This follows the Clipper route taken by Bernard Moitessier in the first Golden Globe Race in 1968-69.

Continues below…

Mark Sinclair - one of the skippers taking part in the Golden Globe Race 2022

Golden Globe Race 2022: The Long Way

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Some of the 23 skippers who are planning on taking part in the 2022 golden Globe Race standing on a pontoon in Les Sables d'Olonne

Golden Globe Race course: changes for 2022 edition

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How do you sail non-stop for 9 months?

All the skippers will be relying heavily on their windvane steering , which is a non-electric device mounted on the transom which steers the boat.

The vane is directed into the wind, and as the wind hits the vane, it tips, transferring this action through the mechanism below to either a rudder or a servo pendulum which acts on the main rudder, altering the boat’s course.

Although windvane self-steering cannot hold a boat on a compass course, it does mean the skipper isn’t having to helm 24/7, giving them time to eat, sleep, prepare sails, make repairs, write up their log or just relax.

What happens in the case of an emergency?

All the skippers must carry a race pack on board which can be used in case of an emergency.

Inside is a stand-alone satellite tracking system, which the skippers can’t see, for web tracking updates, a two-way satellite short text paging unit which connects only to race headquarters, two handheld satellite phones for up to four short messages per day and a sealed box with two portable GPS chart plotters for emergency use only.

People wearing lifejackets while holding onto a liferaft

All skippers who enter the 2022 Golden Globe Race have to complete an approval survival training course. Credit: Paul Quaglian

All entrants will be tracked 24/7 by satellite, and will be able to use this information in an emergency by breaking open a sealed safety box containing a GPS and satellite phone. By doing this, they will be deemed to have retired from the race.

Prior to the start, all entrants must complete an approved survival course and be deemed medically fit to enter the race.

If a skipper is approaching a dangerous weather situation or drifting ice, then the race HQ will provide all the necessary information so the dangerous areas can be avoided.

How do you follow the 2022 Golden Globe Race?

The 2022 Golden Globe Race can be followed at

All the boats will be fitted with three YB3 trackers so their positions can be followed.

What is the history of the Golden Globe Race?

Believed to be a ‘voyage for madmen’ when it was first announced, the first edition of the Golden Globe Race was held in 1968-69 and was sponsored by the Sunday Times, Initially, it was thought to be an impossible feat.

Nine set out including then novice sailor Chay Blyth , his former Atlantic rowing partner John Ridgway, British Navy submarine commander Bill King, Royal Navy officer Nigel Tetley, French sailor Bernard Moitessier, who famously kept sailing ‘to save my soul’, eventually sailing one and a half times around the world before stopping in Tahiti, and the ill-fated ‘weekend sailor’ Donald Crowhurst, who gave his life while trying to achieve what no-one had done before.

It was later found out that Donald Crowhurst had not left the Atlantic during the 243 days he was at sea. Credit: Getty

It was later found out that Donald Crowhurst had not left the Atlantic during the 243 days he was at sea. Credit: Getty

Robin Knox-Johnston was the only skipper to finish, arriving in Falmouth 312 days after leaving the Cornish port aboard his 32ft ketch, Suhaili .

It earned him fame, but the race had its own legacy.

Together with Blondie Hasler’s OSTAR , which started in 1960, yacht racing had captured the public’s imagination, with many going on to achieve their own offshore sailing adventures.

It nurtured the likes of the Whitbread Round the World Race , BOC Challenge and the Vendée Globe .

The 2022 Golden Globe Race will celebrate French sailor Bernard Moitessier, who took part in the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race. Credit: Getty

The 2022 Golden Globe Race will celebrate French sailor Bernard Moitessier, who took part in the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race. Credit: Getty

Two years after the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race, Blyth solo circumnavigated the world nonstop against the prevailing winds and currents, a feat repeated by Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the winner of the 2018-19 Golden Globe Race, the second edition of this round the world solo yacht race.

Australian sailor Don McIntyre was responsible for founding the 2018 Golden Globe Race, which was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968-69 race.

The 2022 Golden Globe Race is being held in celebration of Bernard Moitessier.

What happened in the 2018 race?

Only 18 skippers started the 2018 Golden Globe Race on 1 July 2018, with just five finishing.

French sailor, Jean-Luc Van Den Heede aboard his Rustler 36, Matmut was an early leader in the race and was the first entrant to round the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa, 53 days after the start. By this time, six skippers had retired from the race, either due to equipment failure or lack of experience to continue.

As the fleet headed down the Atlantic into the Southern Indian Ocean there were further casualties.

Norwegian sailor Are Wiig was dismasted 400 miles south west of Cape Town, and was forced to sail to port under jury rig.

Four skippers needed rescuing during the 2018 Golden Globe Race, including Abhilash Tomy, who broke his back after his boat dismasted in the Southern Indian Ocean. Credit: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Four skippers needed rescuing during the 2018 Golden Globe Race, including Abhilash Tomy, who broke his back after his boat dismasted in the Southern Indian Ocean. Credit: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Irish skipper, Gregor McGuckin and Indian Navy Commander Abhilash Tomy were both caught in the same southern Indian Ocean storm. Both of their boats were dismasted, with Tomy breaking his back in several places. Both were rescued by the French patrol vessel, Osiris .

French sailor Loïc Lepage’s Nicholson 32 Mk X was dismasted 600 miles south-west of Perth, Australia, and was rescued by the crew of the bulk carrier Shiosai after the yacht began sinking.

British sailor Susie Goodall was one of only six 2018 skippers to make it to the Hobart gate in Australia.

Her Rustler 36 was later pitchpoled and dismasted in a Southern Ocean storm, around 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn.

She set up a jury rig, but lost this in heavy weather, and had to be rescued by the crew of the Hong Kong-registered cargo ship, Tian Fu .

Jean Luc Van Den Heede celebrating after winning the 2018 Golden Globe Race

A triumphant Jean-Luc Van Dan Heede after coming first in the 2018 Golden Globe Race. Credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

The 2018 Golden Globe Race was won Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, who finished after 211 days at sea. At 73, he also claimed the record for being the oldest person to complete a solo round the world yacht race.

Second place went to Dutch skipper Mark Slats , who finished in 216 days in his Rustler 36, and had been Van Den Heede’s greatest rival in the race.

Estonia’s Uku Radmaa crossed the finish line after 254 days at sea, having almost ran out of food during the race which left him 2okg lighter.

Istvan Kopar from the USA finished fourth, in 264 days.

The final skipper to cross the line was Tapio Lehtinen from Finland, who took even longer than Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the original 1968-69 race.

Barnacle growth on the hull of his Gaia 36 meant he sailed around the world in 322 days; Sir Robin had done it in 313 days.

2018 Race Results

1 Jean- Luc VDH (FRA) Rustler 36 Matmut 2 Mark Slats (NED) Rustler 36 Ohpen Maverick 3 Uku Randmaa (EST) Rustler 36 One and All 4 Istvan Kopar (USA) Tradewind 35 Puffin 5 Tapio Lehtinen (FIN) Gaia 36 Asteria

6 Mark Sinclair (AUS) Lello 34, Coconut (Chichester Class)

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A sail boat with a large dark sail is tipping slightly to the left while all by itself in the ocean.

Alone on the Ocean, With 400,000 Friends

As Cole Brauer sped to the finish of a solo race around the world, she used Instagram to blow up sailing’s elitist image.

Before she could begin the Global Solo Challenge, a nonstop solo race around the world, Cole Brauer had to sail First Light, a 40-foot yacht, from Rhode Island to Spain. Credit... Samuel Hodges

Supported by

By Chris Museler

  • Published Feb. 29, 2024 Updated March 7, 2024

Video dinner parties, spa days, stuffed animals, favorite hoodies and cozy, colorful fleece blankets. Cole Brauer’s Instagram feed hardly feels like the work of someone racing a 40-foot sailboat around the world in the Global Solo Challenge. But Ms. Brauer, 29, is not an average ocean racer.

In 2022, Ms. Brauer had tried out for another competition, the Ocean Race, which is considered the pinnacle of professional ocean racing. Sailors in that race are highly trained, wear matching foul weather gear and have corporate sponsors. And most of them are men. Ms. Brauer, who had sailed thousands of miles on high performance ocean racing boats, felt she was ready to join their ranks.

But after competing in trials in France, Ms. Brauer was told she was “too short for the Southern Ocean” and was sent on her way.

A woman in a red sleeveless jumpsuit holds a railing with her left hand and a piece of a sail with her right hand.

In spite of her small stature — she stands 5 feet 1 inch — Ms. Brauer rounded Cape Horn, Chile, on Jan. 26, the last of the three great capes of her journey to finish the Global Solo Challenge. It is a feat most of the Ocean Race sailors picked instead of her have never even attempted. And despite being the youngest competitor in the race, she is ranked second overall, just days away from reaching the finish line in A Coruña, Spain.

Along the way, her tearful reports of breakages and failures, awe-struck moments during fiery sunrises, dance parties and “shakas” signs at the end of each video have garnered her a following that has eclipsed any sailor’s or sailing event’s online, even the Ocean Race and the America’s Cup, a prestigious race that is more well known by mainstream audiences.

“I’m so happy to have rounded the Horn,” Ms. Brauer said in a video call from her boat, First Light, after a morning spent sponging out endless condensation and mildew from its bilges. “It feels like Day 1. I feel reborn knowing I’ll be in warmer weather. The depression you feel that no one in the world can fix that. Your house is trying to sink and you can’t stop it.”

Shifting gears, she added, “It’s all getting better.”

Ms. Brauer’s rise in popularity — she has more than 400,000 followers on Instagram — has come as a surprise to her, but her achievements, combined with her bright personality, have struck a chord. And she has set a goal of using her platform to change the image of professional ocean sailing.

“Cole wants to prove you can go around the world and watch Netflix every once in a while and wear your pajamas,” said Lydia Mullan, Ms. Brauer’s media manager. “As for her mental health, she’s really creating a space in her routine for herself, to create that joy she hasn’t seen in other sailors.”

Four months after she began the Global Solo Challenge, a solo, nonstop race around the world featuring sailboats of different sizes, Ms. Brauer is holding strong. Sixteen sailors began the journey and only eight remain on the ocean, with the Frenchman Philippe Delamare having finished first on Feb. 24 after 147 days at sea.

Ms. Brauer, who was more than a week ahead of her next closest competitor as of Thursday morning, is on track to set a speed record for her boat class, and to be the first American woman to complete a solo, nonstop sailing race around the world.

solo around the world sailboat race

Her Authentic Self

Ms. Brauer has been happy to turn the image of a professional sailor on its head. Competitors in the Ocean Race and the America’s Cup tend to pose for static social media posts with their arms crossed high on their chests, throwing stern glares. Ms. Brauer would rather be more comfortable.

She brought objects like fleece blankets on her journey, despite the additional weight, and said solo sailing has helped give her the freedom to be herself.

“Without those things I would be homesick and miserable,” she said of her supply list. “We need comfort to be human. Doing my nails. Flossing. It’s hard for the general public to reach pro sailors. People stop watching. If you treat people below you, people stop watching.”

Other female sailors have noticed the same disconnect. “The year I did the Vendée Globe, Michel Desjoyeaux didn’t mention that anything went wrong,” Dee Caffari, a mentor of Ms. Brauer’s who has sailed around the world six times, said of that race’s winner. “Then we saw his jobs list after the finish and we realized he was human.”

Ms. Brauer, as her social media followers can attest, is decidedly human.

They have gotten used to her “hangout” clothes and rock-out sessions. Her team produces “Tracker Tuesdays,” where a weather forecaster explains the routes Ms. Brauer chooses and why she uses different sails, and “Shore Team Sunday,” where team members are introduced.

“In the beginning I looked at what she was doing, posting about washing her knickers in bucket and I was like, ‘No! What are you doing?’” Ms. Caffari said. “I’ve been so professional and corporate in my career. She’s been so authentic and taken everyone around the world with her. Cole is that next generation of sailor. They tell their story in a different way and it’s working.”

Finding a Purpose

Ms. Brauer was introduced to sailing at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Those days of casual racing on the turquoise waters of Kaneohe Bay informed her vision of an inclusive sailing community. That image was shattered when she came to the mainland to try her hand at professional sailing.

“When I came to the East Coast it was so closed off,” she said of those early experiences. “I couldn’t get a job in the industry. Pro sailors were jaded. They didn’t want anyone to take their job. It’s a gig-based economy. Competition, we’re pinned against each other, especially women in high-performance sailing since there are fewer of us.”

“This whole process of being a pro sailor over the past five years, I feel mentally punched in the face and my legs kicked out from under me,” she added. “I screamed and I cried. Without those experiences I wouldn’t be as mentally tough. It made me callused.”

A big break happened when she landed a gig as boat captain for Michael Hennessy’s successful Class40 Dragon. The boat was a perfect platform to hone her ocean sailing skills as she ripped up and down the East Coast delivering it to races, often alone, pushing Dragon to its limits. Her Instagram posts of those adventures drew attention, and she was invited to tryout for the Ocean Race, a fully crewed race around the world in powerful 65-footers.

“I was crushed,” Ms. Brauer said of being rejected after the trials.

Ms. Brauer, though, found a new purpose. After months of living in her van and working on Dragon, she found a benefactor in F.K. Day, the president of World Bicycle Relief and the executive vice president of SRAM Corporation, who, along with his brother Lincoln, agreed to buy a boat and fund a massive refit for the Global Solo Challenge, which was only three months away.

Conducting the hurricane of activity last summer in Newport, R.I., Ms. Brauer knew this was her moment to shine. But representatives for her new sponsors had reservations about her bold social media experiment.

“I got a massive pushback: ‘How can you be so vain. This isn’t important. We don’t want to pay for this,’” she said. “I said none of this is going to matter if the world can’t see it.”

Her boat was covered with cameras her shore team could monitor, with technology allowing for constant recording that could be used to capture unexpected twists. Ms. Brauer got some immediate traction, but nothing prepared her for the numbers she would hit once the race began.

“We were taking bets in Spain,” said Ms. Brauer, who had to sail First Light nearly 3,000 miles from Newport to Spain as a qualifier for the race. “There was a photo of me excited we hit 10,000 followers. Ten thousand for a little race? That’s massive.”

A few months later she has 40 times that count.

A Dangerous Journey

Only a handful of solo ocean racers have been American, all of whom being male. Now Ms. Brauer has a larger following than any of them, pushing far beyond the typical reach of her sport.

“This is a really good case study,” says Marcus Hutchinson, a project manager for ocean racing teams. “For me she’s an influencer. She’s a Kardashian. People will be looking for her to promote a product. She doesn’t need to worry about what the American sailors think. That’s parochial. She has to split with the American environment.”

Unlike her peers, Ms. Brauer is happy to do some extracurricular work along the way toward goals like competing in the prestigious Vendée Globe. “I’m part of the social media generation,” she said. “It’s not a burden to me.”

The playful videos and colorful backdrop, though, can make it easy for her followers to forget that she is in the middle of a dangerous race. Half her competitors in the Global Solo Challenge have pulled out, and ocean races still claim lives, particularly in the violent, frigid storms of the Southern Ocean.

“She was apprehensive,” Ms. Caffari said of Ms. Brauer’s rounding Cape Horn. “I told her: ‘You were devastated that you didn’t get on the Ocean Race. Now look at you. Those sailors didn’t even get to go to the Southern Ocean.’”

The question now is how Ms. Brauer will retain her followers’ desire for content after the race is over.

“She will be unaware of the transition she went through,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “She’s become a celebrity and hasn’t really realized it.”

Ms. Brauer, however, said she received as much from her followers as she gave them.

“They are so loving,” she said. “I send a photo of a sunset, and they paint watercolors of the scene to sell and raise money for the campaign. When I start to feel down, they let me stand on their shoulders.”

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Jean-Luc van den Heede (left), is congratulated by Robin Knox-Johnston, after winning the Golden Globe race

French sailor, 73, wins round-the-world solo-race without modern instruments

  • Jean-Luc Van Den Heede spent 212 days alone at sea
  • Golden Globe race involves navigation with sextants and paper maps

A 73-year-old French sailor has won an unusual, around-the-world yacht race after 212 days alone at sea without modern instruments, in what was his first sailing victory.

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede arrived on Tuesday in Les Sables d’Olonne in western France in his 35-foot yacht Matmut, the first boat to finish the 30,000-mile Golden Globe race. Of the 19 sailors who started out last July, only five were still in the race on Tuesday.

Van Den Heede was making his sixth circumnavigation of the globe. He hit trouble in November, when his mast was damaged during a storm in the Southern Ocean. Heading for land for repairs would have disqualified him from the race, so he attended to the damage himself at sea before rounding Cape Horn shortly afterwards.

“Until then I [had] never abandoned a single race,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. “But I admit that climbing a mast is no longer OK at my age. I climbed seven times. The worst thing was trying to undo the pins. It’s not easy in a workshop on land, but six meters high is a little bit [like the adventure TV show] Fort Boyard.”

Jean-Luc van den Heede approaching the Golden Globe race’s finish line on Tuesday

Among those greeting Van Den Heede on Tuesday was British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston, who won the only other Golden Globe race 50 years ago . The race involves solo sailors navigating with a sextant and paper maps, and communicating only occasionally with the outside world via short-wave radio.

Van Den Heede told reporters he had no immediate plans to make another circumnavigation. “Now I will not sail around the world unless someone makes a great thing that still interests me,” he said. “But hey, no, I don’t plan to go around the world again. That said, my boat is for sale and I can do coaching…”

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Around The World Solo In a Sailboat: What Does It Take?

It takes stamina, humor, planning—not to mention hanging from a line 60 feet up, over waves the size of a house, in gale-force winds

Wendy Mitman Clarke

Wendy Mitman Clarke


Imagine being alone on the ocean for five or ten weeks, sailing in snow, ice and spray cruel as needles. The wind belts you like a prizefighter. The boat is your only haven, yet it throws you like a bronco. Amid all this you must eat, sleep, navigate, find the quickest route and handle every problem yourself, from sprained wrist to snapped mast. This is the endurance test facing the 20 competitors in the BOC Challenge — a single-handed, round the world race that takes place every four years. The sailors began in Charleston, South Carolina, and after stops in three ports along the 27,000-mile route, they will end up in Charleston next month.

One of the racers, Steve Pettengill of Middletown, Rhode Island, gives a nearly day-by-day account of what it takes to prepare for and sail one leg of the race, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Sydney. We're "on board" as he stocks his boat, Hunter's Child, with freeze-dried meals and favorite cassettes, fine-tunes his computerized navigation station, battles freezing rain and stomach churning storms while making repairs and learns the sometimes sad fate of his competitors.

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Wendy Mitman Clarke

Wendy Mitman Clarke | READ MORE

Wendy Mitman Clarke is director of media relations for Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland and a lifelong sailor obsessed with the ocean and all the wonder and weirdness that lives within it. Besides Smithsonian, her non-fiction stories have appeared in Preservation , and Chesapeake Bay Magazine . She's also a published poet.

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GGR winner Kirsten Neuschäfer named female 2023 Rolex World Sailor of the Year

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The Race Returns.

6 september 2026, sailing like it's 1968, follow the race.

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The Golden Globe Race remains totally unique in the world of sailing and stands alone as the longest, loneliest, slowest, most daring challenge for an individual in any sport.

2026 Skippers

Pat Lawless

Pat Lawless

  • Nationality: Irish
  • Country of Entry: IRELAND
  • Boat: Saltram Saga 36

Matthew Wright

Matthew Wright

  • Nationality: Australian
  • Country of Entry: AUSTRALIA
  • Boat: Rustler 36 Masthead Sloop

solo around the world sailboat race

Guido Cantini

  • Nationality: Italian
  • Country of Entry: ITALY
  • Boat: Vancouver 34 Classic

Edward Walentynowicz

Edward Walentynowicz

  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Country of Entry: CANADA

solo around the world sailboat race

  • Nationality: German
  • Country of Entry: GERMANY

solo around the world sailboat race

Daniel Alfredsson

  • Nationality: Swedish
  • Country of Entry: NORWAY
  • Boat: OE 32

solo around the world sailboat race

Andrea Lodolo

  • Boat: Rustler 36

Arriën Lekkerkerker

Arriën Lekkerkerker

  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Country of Entry: NETHERLANDS

Craig Matt Woodside

Craig Matt Woodside

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  • Country of Entry: USA
  • Boat: Cape George 36

Isa Rosli

Andrew Ritchie

  • Country of Entry: UNITED KINGDOM

Olivia Wyatt

Olivia Wyatt

  • Boat: Ta Shing Panda 34

Javier Lapresa Rodríguez

Javier Lapresa

  • Country of Entry: SPAIN
  • Boat: Endurance 35 (proposed)

Erden Eruc

  • Country of Entry: TURKEY
  • Boat: Biscay 36

Josh Axler

  • Boat: Endurance 35

Stephen Wraith

Stephen Wraith

  • Boat: Cape George 36 (Proposed)

solo around the world sailboat race

Alan Lillywhite

  • Nationality: British
  • Boat: Biscay 36 Sloop

solo around the world sailboat race

Joel Harkimo

  • Nationality: Finnish
  • Country of Entry: FINLAND

Gunnar Christensen

Gunnar Christensen

  • Nationality: USA
  • Boat: Tradewind 35 (Proposed)

Oleg Schmidt

Oleg Schmidt

  • Nationality: Russian

solo around the world sailboat race

Confidential Entry

Special invitation entry.

  • Country of Entry: FRANCE

The Race in Numbers

"When I first heard about the 2018 GGR I thought it was a great idea, why not do it, reach out to people who have the ambition to do something special with their lives." Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Patron of the Golden Globe Race


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This race is a nonstop sail around the world. Cassette tapes are allowed, but no GPS

Scott Neuman

solo around the world sailboat race

South African sailor Kirsten Neuschafer, the only woman in the 2022 Golden Globe Race. All but three of her 15 competitors in the grueling months-long competition have been forced to drop out. Aida Valceanu/GGR/2022 hide caption

South African sailor Kirsten Neuschafer, the only woman in the 2022 Golden Globe Race. All but three of her 15 competitors in the grueling months-long competition have been forced to drop out.

Somewhere in the Southern Pacific Ocean, Kirsten Neuschafer is alone on her boat, Minnehaha, as she tries to outmaneuver the latest storm to cross her path as she approaches Cape Horn.

Instead of sailing directly for the tip of South America, she's spent the past day heading north in an effort to skirt the worst of the oncoming weather. The storm is threatening wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour and seas building to 25 feet.

Her plan, she explains over a scratchy satellite phone connection, is to get away from the eye of the storm. "The closer I get to the Horn," she says, "the more serious things become, the windier it becomes."

But there's no turning back. That's because Neuschafer is battling to win what is possibly the most challenging competition the sailing world has to offer — the Golden Globe Race. Since setting off from the coast of France in September, Neuschafer, the only woman competing, has left all rivals in her wake. Of the 16 entrants who departed five months ago, only four are still in the race, and for the moment at least, she's leading.

The race is a solo, nonstop, unassisted circumnavigation, a feat first accomplished in 1969, the same year that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. Since then, more people have traveled to space than have done what Neuschafer is hoping to accomplish.

The race is a throwback in most every way. Unlike its more famous cousin, the Vendée Globe solo nonstop race with its purpose-built vessels made for speed, Golden Globe entrants sail low-tech boats that wouldn't look out of place in any coastal marina. And they do so without modern electronic aids — no laptops or electronic charts, radar or sophisticated weather routing. To find their position at sea, participants instead rely on navigating by the sun and stars and simple speed calculations.

Racers don't do it for the money. The prize of 5,000 pounds (about $6,045) is the same as it was in the 1960s and is not even enough to cover entry fees. The real lure is the challenge.

"The single-handed aspect was the one that drew me," Neuschafer, who is from South Africa, says of her decision to enter.

"I really like the aspect of sailing by celestial navigation, sailing old school," she says, adding that she's always wanted to know "what it would have been like back then when you didn't have all the modern technology at your fingertips."

Satellite phones are allowed, but only for communication with race officials and the occasional media interview. Each boat has collision-avoidance alarms and a GPS tracker, but entrants can't view their position data. There's a separate GPS for navigation, but it's sealed and only for emergencies. Its use can lead to disqualification. Entrants are permitted to use radios to communicate with each other and with passing ships. They're allowed to briefly anchor, but not get off the boat nor have anyone aboard. And no one is allowed to give them supplies or assistance.

The race motto, "Sailing like it's 1968," alludes to the fact that it's essentially a reboot of a competition first put on that year by the British Sunday Times newspaper. In it, nine sailors started, and only one, Britain's Robin Knox-Johnston , managed to complete the first-ever nonstop, solo circumnavigation, finishing in 312 days. Despite leading at one point, French sailor Bernard Moitessier elected to abandon the race in an effort, he said, to "save my soul." Yet another, British sailor Donald Crowhurst , died by suicide after apparently stepping off his boat.

Bringing the race back in 2018 for its 50th anniversary was the brainchild of Australian sailor and adventurer Don McIntyre, who describes the competition as "an absolute extreme mind game that entails total isolation, physical effort ... skill, experience and sheer guts."

"That sets it apart from everything," he says.

For sailors, it's the Mount Everest of the sea

Neuschafer, 40, is a veteran of the stormy waters she's presently sailing, having worked as a charter skipper in Patagonia, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. Although she's been around Cape Horn before, this time is different, she says.

Previously she's been around "the Horn" when she could choose the conditions. But nonstop from the Pacific, with limited weather information, "I'd say, it's a notch up on anxiety. It's almost like ... trying to reach the peak of Everest," she says.

solo around the world sailboat race

Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen's boat sank in November off the southern tip of Africa. He was rescued with the help of fellow racer Kirsten Neuschafer. Aida Valceanu/GGR2022 hide caption

Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen's boat sank in November off the southern tip of Africa. He was rescued with the help of fellow racer Kirsten Neuschafer.

Probably the most harrowing moment so far in this year's race came in November, when Neuschafer sailed 100 miles, staying at Minnehaha's helm through the night to rescue Finland's Tapio Lehtinen — one of the finishers in the 2018 race. She plucked him from a life raft some 24 hours after his boat, Asteria, sank in the southern Indian Ocean.

For the rescue, race officials broke protocol and allowed her to use GPS and gave her a time credit on the race. "I basically sailed throughout the night and by morning I got within range of him," she says.

Spotting Lehtinen's tiny life raft amid 10-foot waves was far from easy, Neuschafer says. "He could see ... my sail [but] I couldn't see him, not for the life of me." She later managed to transfer him to a freighter.

That incident reinforced for her how things could change at any moment. In the Golden Globe, she says, "a large proponent of it is luck."

The days can be serene, but also isolating

The drama of such days at sea is offset by others spent in relative peace. A typical day, if there is such a thing, starts just before sunrise, she says, "a good time to get the time signal on the radio so that I can synchronize my watches," which she needs for accurate celestial navigation.

"Then ... I'll have a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, and then I'll wait for the sun to be high enough that I can take a reasonable [sextant] sight." A walk around the deck to see if anything is amiss and perhaps a bit of reading — currently it's The Bookseller of Kabul by Norwegian journalist and author Asne Seierstad — before another sight at noon to check her position.

Or perhaps some music. It's all on cassette, since competitors aren't allowed a computer of any kind. As a result, she's listening to a lot of '80s artists, "good music that I ordinarily wouldn't listen to," she says.

The isolation was more difficult for American Elliott Smith, who at 27 was the youngest entrant in this year's race. He dropped out in Australia due to rigging failure.

solo around the world sailboat race

Elliott Smith, a 27-year-old originally from Tampa, Fla. A rigging failure forced him to quit in Australia. Simon McDonnell/FBYC hide caption

Elliott Smith, a 27-year-old originally from Tampa, Fla. A rigging failure forced him to quit in Australia.

Reached in the Australian port city of Fremantle, the surfer-turned-sailor from Florida says he doesn't entirely rule out another try at the race in four years. But for now, he's put his boat, Second Wind, up for sale. He seems circumspect about the future.

"It was really obvious that I stopped enjoying the sailing at some point," he confides about the rigors of the race. "There were moments ... where I found myself never going outside unless I had to. I was like, 'I'm just staying in the cabin. I'm just reading. I'm miserable.' "

Smith says there were days when he would see an albatross, but was too mentally exhausted to appreciate the beauty of it. "I was like, 'This is so sad, you know?' Like, I've become complacent [about] something that most people would never even try, you know?"

Neuschafer, too, has had her share of frustrations. The latest was a broken spinnaker pole, which keeps her from setting twin forward sails on the 36-foot-long Minnehaha — her preferred setup for running downwind.

She's looking forward to finishing in early spring. But first, she still has to traverse the entire Atlantic Ocean from south to north.

"I'll get off and enjoy feeling the land beneath my feet." After that, she says, "the first thing I'd like to do is eat ice cream."

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Alex Thompson in the Hugo Boss boat hits a big wave during the Vendee Globe solo round the world sailing race

See what it’s like to sail solo at full throttle

Vendee globe highlights.

Watch some of the best moments from the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race.

The Vendee Globe started in Les Sables d’Olonne

© Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe

Alan Roura of La Fabrique sailing alone

© Alan Roura/La Fabrique/Vendee Globe

Banque Popular spotted off Cape Verde from a plane

© Marine Nationale/Vendee Globe

Heading south to the Southern Ocean

© Bertrand de Broc/MACSF/Vendee Globe

This is the most remote place on Planet Earth

These waves are the mountains of the sea, watch these boats catch some serious waves, this crew sailed 1062km to bermuda in gnarly seas.



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Meet the first Indian sailor to complete solo, unassisted trip around the world – Abhilash Tomy

D ubai: A storm brews in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Waves so high, they topple a lone sailor’s boat. A naval commander, who was out on an adventure – a solo, unassisted trip to circumnavigate the Earth.

This is the story of retired Indian naval commander Abhilash Tomy and his unquenchable thirst for adventure.

The story of the storm dates back to 2018, when brutal waves capsized the boat a 39-year-old Tomy was sailing, leaving him hanging on to the sail. As the vessel flipped back up again, he came crashing down, first hitting the top of the mast and then landing with a thud on the aluminium pole of the vessel.

The fall left him paralysed – his back broken in four places.

“My boat was completely destroyed and I had to send out an SOS. I was in the boat for three and half days, waiting for rescue. I was not able to get up, cook anything, drink any water. I was just surviving,” Tomy, who spoke to Gulf News on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow 2023, said.

But today – five years later – the 44-year-old former Indian navy officer is hardly put off by the idea of sailing, and that’s because the love of adventure crept into his mind at a very young age.

Swashbuckling sailors, living in books

He was eight or nine years old, when he would pick up large, discarded pieces of cardboard along the beach, turning them into barely functional rafts, as he tried to punt out to the sea.

As a 12-year-old, he wanted to run away from home, just for the thrill of it.

The son of an Indian Navy officer, he had devoured the books at the naval libraries, which were all seemingly filled with stories of heroes sailing the sea.

“I would read one book a day and I was so fascinated that when I turned 12, I told my mum that I am going to run away from home,” Tomy said.

His mum’s response: “Wait for a few more years. You can join the navy and have your fun.”

He finally did make it to the Indian navy, and in 2012 Tomy completed his first solo trip around the world.

The second time around, he decided to participate in the Golden Globe Race, which is considered to pose the longest, loneliest, slowest, most daring challenge for an individual in any sport.

When the storm hit

Tomy participated in the race in 2018, when he met with the accident that left his back broken.

“We were in the 82nd day of the race and met with this massive storm in the South Indian Ocean. There were three boats that got hit by it, we were in the middle of nowhere, exactly between Australia and South Africa. Antarctic was probably the nearest major landmass to that spot. We were thousands of miles away from any land. This storm destroyed two boats … mine was one of them,” Tomy said.

The SOS signal sent by Tomy led to a multinational rescue effort, but it still took three and a half days for someone to reach him. A French fisheries patrol vessel approached him and took him to Amsterdam Island, a small land mass in the middle of the Southern Indian Ocean.

There, they managed to stabilise him medically, and on Day 6 of the accident, the ship that the Indian navy had dispatched reached him, and transferred him to a hospital in Vishakapatnam, India, from where he was transferred to New Delhi for treatment.

On the 18th day, he had a titanium rod inserted in his back and five vertebrae were fused into a single piece. It cost him some level of mobility and flexibility.

“My muscles were completely gone, I just had fat and skin on my legs, I had lost a lot of weight. After two months of physiotherapy, the doctor declared that I was fit to return to work, but only for a desk job,” he said.

Six months after the accident, though, Tomy was apparently fighting fit. He was ready to return to the cockpit, as he was a pilot in the Indian Navy, but the medical fitness tests that pilots undergo in the navy can be gruelling, to say the least.

“You need to clear a lot of parameters to be able to go back to an aircraft cockpit. Once the doctor declared me fit enough, I had to do a lot of drills. In one of the emergency drills, they put you inside a cockpit and the entire aircraft is dunked underwater. You are blindfolded. You have to hold your breath and then unstrap yourself, feel your way from the cockpit out to the back, locate an emergency window and then escape. And you have to do this drill five times from the pilot’s seat, and five times from the co-pilot’s seat. This is followed by a storm simulation where you have to swim, look for your friends, gather them and try to survive, followed by a winching from a helicopter. The winching was tough because my spine doesn’t flex so it hurt a bit, but I cleared all that and went back to flying,” Tomy said.

He also wanted to return to sailing. His family, which has always been supportive, was once again standing with him. When his wife found out that he was planning to participate in the Golden Globe Race again, she simply said: “Do it by all means, but make sure you have a good team.”

That team included UAE-based Bayanat, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based geospatial solutions provider, which sponsored his race in 2022 and for which Tomy is now an ambassador.

“When I am racing, the rules for me are the same as what are being followed by all the other entrants. I had to have 1968 technology. I could not have any special communication with Bayanat. I could not use any of the platforms that Bayanat has. But in the background, what Bayanat did was that they developed a platform using AI to predict my position in the immediate future. Secondly, Bayanat was also able to track these boats, if the need comes, using satellites and this gave me a lot of comfort because I knew someone was watching my back. There was an added layer of safety over the pre-existing global maritime safety services,” Tomy said.

He participated in the Golden Globe race again in 2022 and came second, becoming the first Indian and even Asian skipper to win a podium finish in a round-the-world race.

A mental game

Talking about the experience of sailing across the world alone, Tomy spoke about how it was more of a mental game than a gruelling test of strength. It is also a great journey of self-discovery, according to Tomy, as the solitude of the endeavour can really force a person to look inwards and spend more time with the kind of person they are.

And now the question he always gets asked is: What’s next?

Having just finished his race last year, Tomy says it is too early for him to decide.

“You run a cross-country race that lasts an hour and you take rest for eight hours. I have just come back from the sea having spent 236 days, so I think I need to spend some time with my family and give them some stability. That’s my primary focus. But yes, I will be looking for races and more adventures,” he said.

Note: This story was first published in November 2023. 

Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy's 2023 journey was sponsored and supported by UAE company Bayanat, after which his boat was also named.

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Meet the Sailing Team GB: Going for 2024 Olympic Gold

2024 Olympic Sailing Team. Credit: Team GB

Exclusive Interview with 2024 Olympic Sailing Team GB: Georgie Corlett-Pitt meets team thats going for gold!

British sailors: the leading nation.

The 10 sailors so far selected to represent Great Britain at this summer’s Olympics were the first athletes of any sport to be announced by Team GB; filling the spots in seven of the ten Sailing classes. The S ailing Team GB is a mix of fresh talent and experienced Olympians. Tokyo 2020 Nacra 17 silver medallists John Gimson and Anna Burnet, and windsurfing bronze medallist Emma Wilson lead the charge, along with two-times Olympian 49erFX crew Saskia Tidey, hoping it’ll be third-time lucky with new helm Freya Black; the rest make their Olympic debuts. 

new sailing team GB

The ambition, according to Mark Robinson, RYA Performance Director, is to win three to five medals of any colour, and, above all, maintain Britain’s position – held for five of the last six Games – as top sailing nation. “That means more gold medals,” he says. “That will be our biggest challenge – can we be top nation? – particularly against the French who are throwing everything at it.” 

GB Vs France

Overcoming the home nation in Marseille will be no mean feat, given the French team’s head-start in the new board classes (several sailors were already semi-pro), the hefty funding injection they’ve received, and their exclusive access to a new state of the art facility within the Olympic Marina, out of bounds to foreign teams. 

Mark explains: “It’s always been a question of trajectory – can we catch the French for the gold medals prior to the Games? In last summer’s Test Event, France and Britain won five medals each – they took four gold, one silver; we took four silver, one bronze. It’s very similar to our position in the Tokyo Test Event; we had no gold medals in 2019 and then converted upwards to win three gold, one silver and one bronze at the Games. So all of our focus now is on converting the Test Event bronze and silvers into gold.” 

Of the sailors selected so far, Mark says all have shown medal potential based on results at key international events. “Selecting early sharpens the focus and allows us to focus resources on the one crew within each class,” he continues. 

The initial decision is made by the RYA’s Olympic Selection Committee – which includes multiple past Olympians – before being confirmed by the British Olympic Association.

For those already selected, the next few months are about carefully managing performance in order to peak at the Games in July. The challenge is both physical and mental. The board classes in particular have brought an increased physicality to the Games, adding a greater physiological dimension. There’s strong temptation to set goals around upcoming Worlds and Europeans – which Mark admits can help to boost confidence and focus, and aid equipment development – but it’s a careful balance of risk vs reward. “Ultimately,” he says, “it’s the Games that really matter”.  

Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille,

James Peters, Sailing Team GB: 49er helm

Pathway: Optimist, RS Feva, 29er, RS200, 49er (training partner for 2016 Olympics)

Recent highlights: 2022 – European bronze, 2023 – Worlds 6 th

When did the Olympics become your goal?

In 2008, when I won the Youth Worlds and 29er Europeans – that gave me the belief.

What has got you this far?

My competitive instinct to beat my sister from a young age pushed me a long way!

What’s your super-power?

I love the downwind legs, especially when it’s gusty and patchy – I like to think I can find the wind before the competition. 

Other than 2024 selection, what has been your proudest moment? 

Winning the 49ers at the Princess Sofia Regatta with Fynn in 2017, finally, after so many memories of success and disappointments. 

What do you love most about your class?

The 49er requires both helm and crew to have superb feel for the boat. We often sail swapped over in training. You can see the best sailors in the class are nearly as good this way round. 

What will it take to win 49er gold?

Being a well-rounded sailor. Marseille could bring a strong Mistral wind, or a light steady onshore gradient – we must be ready for anything! 

Fynn Sterritt, Sailing Team GB: 49er crew

Pathway: Topper, 420, 49er 

Recent highlights: 2022 – European bronze, 2023 – Worlds 6th

From a very early stage of sailing Toppers in the Scottish Highlands, the Olympic dream had me hooked. 49ers were always the goal, so after a break from sailing for university, I moved to Portland to sail full-time.

James Peters & Fynn Sterritt

What has got you this far? 

One of my very first coaches, when asked who he thought would go to the Olympics, pointed at me. This has stuck with me ever since – in many cases it’s the belief those around you instil in you which lays the foundations for success. My parents played a huge part in that too.

First thing you did when you found out you had been selected?

I rang James! We have been together as a team for so long, through so many ups and downs, it felt right to appreciate it together. 

Not letting my emotions get the better of me. It is also my kryptonite at times! Knowing when to lean into your emotions is super important, especially in a two-person boat. 

Biggest rivals?

There will be no previous 49er Olympic medallists in Marseille, which makes the field pretty open. However, the three-times world champions from the Netherlands will certainly go in as one of the favourites.

The 49er class used to be considered high speed, however the rapid development of foiling makes us look pretty slow at times these days! But no matter how good you think you are, the boat is always a handful in challenging conditions.

John Gimson, Sailing Team GB: Nacra 17 helm

Pathway: National 12, 29er, 420, 470, Tornado, various pro one-design keelboats, Star, America’s Cup AC45, Nacra 17 (silver, Tokyo Olympics)

Recent highlights: 2023 – Worlds silver, European gold, Test Event bronze

solo around the world sailboat race

Perseverance, hard work – and Anna Burnet!  

This is your second Olympics. What’s different?   

During covid we had no access to the venue in 2020 or 2021; this time we are expecting to spend a lot more time in venue, and we have more regattas too.

What lessons will you be taking forwards?

In Tokyo we learnt to expect the unexpected, nothing ever quite goes exactly to plan so we need to be ready for anything.

What do you love most about the Nacra 17? 

This Olympic cycle the addition of the rudder delta system has enabled foiling upwind and unlocked more modes, it takes so much coordination between Anna and I to keep the boat on the polars. It is by far the hardest boat I have ever sailed in terms of sailing it well, so it is very easy to get it wrong, but so rewarding when you get the set-up, crew work, trimming and steering in harmony.  

What will it take to win at Paris 2024?

Hard work, doing the details well, following the plan. And as always in sailing, a little bit of luck!

Anna Burnet, Sailing Team GB: Nacra 17 crew

Pathway: Optimist, 420, 470, 49erFX, Nacra 17 (silver, Tokyo Olympics)

Perseverance, my parents’ support – and teaming up with John!

How has the experience differed this time around vs the run-up to Tokyo? 

We didn’t see our competitors much in the year before Tokyo due to Covid. Also, we haven’t had such tight British selection trials this time round so we’ve had a longer time to focus solely on the end goal.  

What lessons will you be taking forwards from Tokyo?

It’s hard to control the nerves on day one, but I’ll be expecting it this time round so hopefully it’ll be easier to come out firing. 

Biggest rivals? 

The Italians, and then about five other nations are very dangerous on a good week. 

What do you love most about your class? 

It’s incredibly hard to sail the Nacra well, so it’s hugely rewarding when you get it right.

Anna Burnet - Olympic team gb

Emma Wilson, Sailing Team GB: iQFOil windsurfer

Pathway: Techno 293, RS:X (bronze, Tokyo Olympics) 

Recent highlights: 2023 – Worlds bronze, Test Event silver

When I was younger, I played every sport going. Then I went to some international windsurfing competitions and just couldn’t stop thinking about trying to win Olympic gold.

Stubborn determination! If someone says I can’t do something, I want to do it even more. 

Emma Wilson - Sailing Team GB

How has the experience differed this time around vs Tokyo?

I changed classes after Tokyo [the RS:X was replaced by the iQFOil], so at the start of this cycle I was on this whirlwind of trying to learn as much as I could in a rush. Now I’m selected, it’s quite nice to have the focus of Paris. I am definitely more of a favourite this time, which is a bit different too, as I don’t think anyone expected anything from me in Tokyo.

What did you learn from the last Games?

Enjoy the experience! It was the best two weeks of my life, so to get that opportunity again, I just really want to embrace it.

About 10 girls could win it; Israel, France, Spain, Norway, Holland are all pretty high contenders.

How fast it is and how it just keeps developing every day. A year ago, no-one could foil tack and now we are doing it in races, so I just love that side of it.

Being fast, smart and having a smile!

Freya Black, Sailing Team GB: 49erFX helm

Pathway: Optimist, RS Feva, 29ers, 470, 49erFX 

Recent highlights: 2023 – Worlds 5 th , Test Event 7th 

Freya Black - Olympics

Never settling for anything but winning. I remember winning the 29er Ladies European title [2018] – I was so happy but annoyed that we hadn’t won the overall title too!

Proudest moment in sailing so far?

Our first 49erFX Worlds in Canada in 2022, where we finished ninth. It was a pretty hard summer trying to learn the boat and how we work together [the pair teamed up in late 2021], and it felt like everything came together and you could really see the potential in our team.

What did you do when you found out you had been selected?

It was a pretty surreal feeling, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself! I had a big grin on my face and went for a champagne dinner with my parents to celebrate.

What will it take to win gold?

Consistency. The team that is well-rounded and keeps the scores on the board low will come out on top.

Saskia Tidey, Sailing Team GB: 49er FX crew

Pathway: Laser Radial, 49er FX (12th at Rio Olympics sailing for IRL; switched to GBR for Tokyo where she finished 6th with Charlotte Dobson)

What’s your super-power? 

Performing under pressure, delivering what we practice no matter what curve balls get thrown at us. 

How has the experience differed from the last Games?

This cycle can only be described as a sprint! Tokyo was a marathon of five years in the making. Covid was a very tough time for everyone and certainly affected performance expectations all over the world. Paris will be Freya’s and my first Games together. We have had to put in some serious hours to slot into the top 10 in the world within 12 months of starting together. 

What lessons will you take forwards?

Tokyo was a wild venue for weather. A lot like Marseille, you can be given all conditions in one week of racing. There are no short cuts, so every skill needs refining. 

What’s next?

Our Worlds in March is key. For our team it has always been the goal to strike late. We need all the training and racing we can get to make mistakes and learn from them. 

Saskia Tidey - Sailing Team GB

The 49erFX fleet has a very tight top 10, with a lot of shuffling over the last 12 months. The more experienced teams have been relatively consistent, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, but no-one is unbeatable. 

Micky Beckett, Sailing Team GB: ILCA 7

Pathway: Learnt in a boat my dad built, Topper, Laser Radial (ILCA 6) until age 17, then ILCA 7

Recent highlights: 2021 – European gold, 2023 – Worlds silver, Test Event silver 

Realistically about five years ago, when I thought there was an outside chance I could qualify for the Tokyo Games. I didn’t win the trials [finished second], but the goal remained.

Proudest sailing moment to date?

Being ranked world number one earlier this year. I still remember getting my first world ranking over 10 years ago – I was outside the top 200.

Micky Beckett - sailing team GB

I was sat in Amsterdam airport when I got the call. I was travelling alone, so there was nothing to really say to anyone… I just looked around and smiled, it’s a cool feeling.

Take your pick. The fleet at the moment has so many previous Olympic and World medallists in it, I wouldn’t recommend placing any big bets!

Best thing about your class?

It’s tough and there’s nowhere to hide. The boats are supplied at each major event, so if your technique, decisions, fitness or any other part of your game isn’t up to it the fleet will just spit you out in no time.

Good boat speed, consistent starts, staying calm.

Sam Sills, Sailing Team GB: Men’s iQFOiL

Pathway: Techno 293, RS:X for 2016 and 2020 cycles, then iQFOil (after a break to progress his a career as a naval architect)

Recent highlights: 2023 – Worlds 5th, Test Event 7 th   

Men’s iQFOiL

How did you feel when you found out you had been selected?

It was a big relief, it’s pretty amazing. It was probably a 20 year journey to get there.

Not being afraid of commitment and sacrifice, even when it’s difficult – like missing Christmas with family three years in a row.

Proudest moment?

Qualifying the nation for Paris 2024 at the Olympic Test event, despite being in a road traffic accident two weeks before.

Sam Sills. Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Test Event, Marseille, France. Day 6 Race Day on 14th July 2023.

Ellie Aldridge, Sailing Team GB: Women’s Formula Kite

Pathway: Dinghies including 49erFX until 2018, then switched to kite-foiling

Recent highlights: 2023 – Worlds silver, European gold, Test Event silver 

I wouldn’t be going to the Olympics without the rest of the girls pushing me [Lily Young and Katie Dabson finished immediately behind her at the world championship qualifying event]. The key to our success has been our drive as a group. All of the girls started kite foiling at the same time, we all learned together and went through everything together. 

How did it feel to be selected?

Incredible! It has given me a lot of confidence.


Visit the official Team GB website for more info on the most successful team .

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solo around the world sailboat race

Gladys orcas sink another sailboat in the Strait of Gibraltar: ‘They don’t go like a battering ram’

Since may 2020 the pod of 15 iberian killer whales has sunk seven vessels — five sailboats and two moroccan fishing boats — in waters that coincide with their migratory route.

Orcas en el Estrecho de Gibraltar

In the first case of a boat being sunk by killer whales this year, the Spanish Coast Guard reported that at 9 a.m. Sunday the two crew members of the sailboat Alborán Cognac sent an SOS after an encounter with orcas 14 nautical miles from Cape Espartel, at the southern entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar in Moroccan waters, stating their vessel had been damaged. The sailors explained that they had felt blows on the hull and suffered rudder damage and, more seriously, a breach that could sink the 15-meter-long sailboat. Given the urgency of the situation, a helicopter was scrambled and the tanker MT Lascaux , which was “sailing nearby, was requested to divert to the position of the sailboat to provide assistance,” said sources from the Spanish Ministry of Transport.

At the same time Moroccan authorities were alerted and the crew members were instructed to put on their life jackets and to turn on the AIS (Automatic Identification System), as well as to have “the radio beacons ready” in case they needed to be located. An hour after the SOS was send, at 10 a.m., the two sailors were safe and sound on board the tanker, which transported them to Gibraltar. Nothing could be done to save the sailboat, which drifted and eventually sank.

Experts who study the behavior of orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar believe that the specimens behind this latest incident are the Iberian killer whales collectively known as Gladys , a pod of 15 whales belonging to the population of around 37 that live between the north of the Iberian Peninsula and the Strait of Gibraltar. The first documented incident of this type occurred in May 2020 and, adding this weekend’s encounter, seven shipwrecks have now been recorded: five sailboats and two Moroccan fishing boats, the latter of which were in very poor condition.

The encounters occur mainly on the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula but also in adjacent areas of France and Morocco, the migratory route of these cetaceans as they follow schools of tuna, their main food source . The latest data from the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA), an organization that contributes to the animals’ conservation and management, indicate that there have been at least 673 interactions (when the orcas approach a boat with or without contact), since the Gladys began to display this unusual behavior.


Orca attacks not intentional, say experts

Experts argue that these are not intentional attacks, but rather learned behavior that may be related to their curiosity, their fondness for play, or some form of caution that leads them to want to stop the boat. “They don’t go like a battering ram to attack the ship and sink it, and they might do so if that were their intention,” says Alfredo López, a marine biologist and spokesman for GTOA. It is also not known if these attacks are the result of a trigger that results in behavior that is atypical in the species.

Although there is no pattern, and their behavior varies, the Gladys tend to sneak up on a boat, often without the crew noticing, to get underneath it. They then begin to bump against it and to hit the rudder with their heads, sometimes breaking it with the leverage exerted. “A breach can even occur and sailboats do not usually have adequate pumps to expel the amount of water they take on, so the boat can sink,” explains López.

The favorites of these 15 killer whales, which are divided into at least four groups, are sailboats — both monohulls (72%) and catamarans (14%) — with an average length of 12 meters, although interactions with motorboats (6%), semi-rigid vessels (5%) and fishing boats (3%) have also been observed, according to GTOA.

How should sailors react if orcas approach their vessel? The Ministry of Transport offers recommendations on its website for navigation in the Gulf of Cádiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. The measures are applicable throughout the year — but especially between the months of April and August, the time when most interactions occur — and always only if possible and will not potentially generate greater danger. In the first instance, the ministry states, it is advisable to avoid navigating in the area delimited in the map published on its website and, if that is not possible, to remain as close as possible to the coast, within safety guidelines.

If an encounter is unavoidable, the best thing to do is not to stop the vessel (whether it is a motor or sailboat) and to make for the coast and shallower waters. At the same time, those on board should avoid approaching the sides of the boat as the sudden movements caused by killer whales can cause injury or result in falling into the sea. Nor should deterrent measures be used that may cause death, harm, or stress to the whales, for example firing flares at them, which has been reported on occasion. Lastly, the sighting of or interaction with the cetaceans should be transmitted to the nearest Rescue Coordination Center through VHF channels.

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More information

Orcas Estrecho

The biography of Gladys, the killer whale who breaks sailboats and reigns supreme on social media


Menopause explains female whales’ longevity

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  27. Meet the Sailing Team GB: Going for 2024 Olympic Gold

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  28. Gladys orcas sink another sailboat in the Strait of Gibraltar: 'They

    In the first case of a boat being sunk by killer whales this year, the Spanish Coast Guard reported that at 9 a.m. Sunday the two crew members of the sailboat Alborán Cognac sent an SOS after an encounter with orcas 14 nautical miles from Cape Espartel, at the southern entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar in Moroccan waters, stating their vessel had been damaged.