American Cole Brauer Takes on Global Solo Challenge as Youngest and Only Female Competitor

©Cole Brauer

We are delighted to announce a notable addition to the upcoming Global Solo Challenge roster. Pushing the boundaries of this event Cole Brauer from Boothbay, Maine, USA, steps into the limelight as the first and currently the only female competitor. She will also be the youngest entry in the event at just 29 years old. 

Brauer will undertake this challenge on her Class40 yacht, christened ‘First Light’. Cole’s fascination with sailing traces back to her childhood spent exploring the natural wonders of a nature preserve. Her move to Hawaii for university opened the gateway to the sailing community, which embraced her and fueled her passion for the water.

Her passion for single-handed sailing was ignited through an enlightening conversation with mentor Tim Fetsch, and further fueled by the inspiring life story of famed sailor Ellen McArthur. With a growing affinity for single-handed sailing and an insatiable ambition to become the First American Woman to Race Solo Around the World, the Global Solo Challenge seemed a fitting event to register for.

Brauer’s preparation for the race hinges on her meticulous planning, robust team support, and an understanding of her yacht, ‘First Light’, like no other. She recognizes the substantial hurdles she will face, particularly considering her late entry, but Brauer is no stranger to overcoming challenges.

Furthermore, Brauer’s participation is underpinned by a powerful social message. She aims to disrupt the prevailing ‘traditional’ mindset in sailing, a sport known for its male dominance. Advocating for a more inclusive and respectful environment, she aspires to inspire change, fostering a community that encourages and respects women sailors.

Cole Brauer’s entry into the Global Solo Challenge sets a new course for the event. We eagerly anticipate her performance, as she embodies the spirit of determination, resilience, and aspiration in this demanding event.

 

Where does your passion for sailing come from?

When I was a kid there weren’t many opportunities to sail, and when there were, they were either very expensive (yacht club prices) or the boats didn’t interest me because they were slow, bulky and the classes were rigid.

I grew up on a nature preserve, wandering through the tall grass of the creek and playing in the mud watching the tide come in. I spent a lot of time alone exploring nature. I was fascinated with clouds, animal bones, and watching the weather roll by. Pretending I was a fairy flying through the creek observing every movement, every puff that pushed the reeds one way or the other. When I moved to Hawaii for University, all I wanted was to get out on the water. Feel at home. Accessing the sailing community in Hawaii was the logical step. I had no idea that this entire community was going to take me under their wing the way they did and push me to pursue my wildest dreams.

 

What are the lessons you learned from sailing?

Sailing has taught me that I am never truly alone. I was in Hawaii away from my family on an island for so many years yet I was never homesick. The sailing community taught me everything there was to know about sailing and racing while also giving me life lessons throughout the way. For instance: to never forget that life is so incredibly short. You can work in an office for 40 years and come out and your body deteriorates and you can’t do the things you used to do. Yet if you take this time while you are young to make the most of it. Money will come. You may never have enough money to be “rich” but you will have enough to be content and secure. It’s all a mindset. This was taught to me by the sailing community.

 

What brought you to like single-handed sailing?

I was sitting having dinner with a mentor of mine, Tim Fetsch, in 2018 and we were talking about goals and what I wanted to accomplish in my sailing career. I was 24 years old at the time. And Tim asked me what do you want to do? I said the Volvo Ocean Race. He said “you really want to sail around the world?” I had just returned from a watch captain gig on a 7 person team in the Pacific Cup, a race from San Francisco to Hawaii. I said “of course!” He said “have you ever heard of Ellen McArther.” I said no (I hadn’t grown up sailing so I was lacking idols). He then sent me her book, ‘Taking on the World’. I read it in two days on a boat delivery. That was it. I was going to race solo around the world. I was going to do it as a 5’2’’ 100lb woman. Just like Ellen McArther. And the best part! I actually loved single-handed sailing more than fully crewed by a long shot! I had found my footing.

 

What prompted you to sign up for this event?

My co-skipper, Cat Chimney, recommended this race to me because it falls in line with the overall goal of being the First American Woman to Race Solo Around the World. While giving the team and I four years to prepare for the 2028 Vendee with a World Race under our belt.

 

How do you plan to prepare for this event?

I have a strong team behind me. I have been prepping some of these members of this team for years now. They have all known my goals and aspirations. I have written a timeline, schedule, estimated cost and communicated my expectations while also keeping the conversation honest and open with each one of my teammates. Without these teammates, I would not be able to do this race.

 

What do you think will be the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge will be making the starting line, since I and the team are coming into this event late to the game.

 

Tell us about your boat.

‘First Light’ is a Class40, she was formerly owned by Michael Hennessy and formally named Dragon. She has a strong pedigree and has been loved since her inception. I know the boat better than any other boat I have ever sailed. We have a strong understanding of each other.

 

Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?

This goal has always been to be the First American Woman to Race Around the World. With this goal, I hope to show that this very male-dominated sport and community CAN become more open and less “traditional.” This is changing a mindset that has been set in stone by many boat clubs, yacht clubs, and people (women and men). I will be fighting against the constant sexual, verbal, and physical harassment for not just myself but for the Corinthian and Professional women sailors in this sport. As professional sailors, we have been fighting for many years for equal pay (we are paid significantly less than a man in the same position), we are harassed by teammates, owners, clients, race organizers, and many others in this community. 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. Please follow safesail.org, this is an organization that is changing the world of sailing as we know it. It is giving people an opportunity to report harassment to listening ears in the sailing community.

 

Sailing achievements or racing palmares.

I hope that this race will be my biggest sailing achievement to date.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank my team. Thank you for supporting me before and during this upcoming event! I can’t do this without them; I understand this very clearly. Thank you to the Day family, I love this boat so much and I’m so unbelievably happy I have the opportunity to sail her. I have said for a long time that if I am going to sail around the world I am going to do it on a boat I know, love, and trust. This is the one. Thank you to my immediate support team, FK and Linc Day, Philip Carlsson, Cat Chimney, Serena Village, Zach Mason, Jimmy Carolla, Kyle Wishart, Chelsea Freas, and James Tomlinson. I’m sure we will grab a lot more people as this process carries on but I will never forget the beginning squad and how much support you have already provided!!

 

Class40 ‘First Light’ ©Cole Brauer