Cole Brauer is the first American woman to sail solo around the world nonstop (Credit: Cole Brauer Ocean Racing/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Cole Brauer has made history as the first American woman to sail alone around the world without stopping. The Long Island, New York, resident completed the tough 30,000-mile (48,280-km) Global Solo Challenge on March 7, 2024, in just 130 days. Brauer placed second among 16 sailors and was one of only seven participants who made it to the finish line.

The 29-year-old was the only woman and the youngest racer. Standing 5 feet 2 inches (157 cm) tall and weighing just 100 pounds (45 kg), she was also the smallest and lightest competitor. Brauer joins an elite group of fewer than 200 sailors who have accomplished this feat.

The Global Solo Challenge route is extremely difficult (Credit: Global Solo Challenge)

Brauer's journey aboard her 40-foot (12-meter) racing vessel, First Light, began from A Coruña, Spain, on October 29, 2023. She sailed down the west coast of Africa, then over to Australia, and around the southern tip of South America before returning to Spain. Throughout the race, Brauer's team guided her via satellite. She could also talk to her family members, watch Netflix, and share her daily adventures on Instagram.

Though Brauer made it look easy, the Global Solo Challenge is not for the faint-hearted. Sailors must navigate the three "great capes" — Africa's Cape of Good Hope, Australia's Cape Leeuwin, and South America's Cape Horn. In particular, sailing around Cape Horn has often been likened to climbing Mount Everest because of its difficulty. Located where the Pacific Ocean meets the Atlantic, it boasts a variety of hazards, including a sharp rise in the ocean floor and strong westerly winds that create massive waves.

Brauer hopes her success will encourage other girls to become professional sailors (Credit: Cole Brauer Ocean Racing/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Brauer certainly faced her fair share of difficulties. In one instance, 30-foot (9-meter) waves threw her across the boat, injuring her rib badly. In another, she had to insert an IV into her arm due to dehydration caused by nausea and vomiting.

Brauer fell in love with sailing when she went to college in Hawaii. She originally intended to become a doctor but instead opted for professional sailing. However, breaking into the largely male-dominated profession has not been easy. Despite her success, she still has a hard time getting sponsors. But the challenges have not deterred the 29-year-old, who is already preparing for her next adventure. Brauer hopes her success will inspire other young girls to consider professional sailing.

"It would be amazing if there was just one other girl that saw me and said, 'Oh, I can do that, too,'" she said.