Sailing, whether competitively or just to cruise on a boat, is the most free-feeling thing one can ever experience. Wind in your hair, cool water splashing on your face, and the many other boats in your wake. The sport of sailing is especially unique in that it knows no gender bounds, with a boat made up of all men or women able to do well against one another. Demonstrating that gender isn't a prerequisite for success is Cole Brauer and her Co-Skipper Cat Chimney in the recent Bermuda One-Two race. The two were able to win the race together this past June against a majority male fleet.
When people say sailing is a lifelong sport, they are not lying. I have known people who have sailed from the age they can hold a tiller until they’re physically unable to do so anymore. And even when they cannot, it does not stop them from going in a boat with whoever is open to sailing them around. Growing up in the world of US Sailing has shown me the amount of doubt people hold for women in this sport, so Brauer’s story is especially important. She did not begin sailing until she went to college, and has been sailing competitively ever since. This is unheard of in the world of sailing, with most professionals starting as young as they can. Personally, I began sailing competitively at the age of fourteen and even then I was told I would never succeed because I started “too late.” This does not even include the amount of ridicule women face within the sailing community. Cole Brauer not only completing but also competing in this race gives women within sailing the hope to be taken seriously. She makes it abundantly clear that she is in support of an organization called Safe Sail which is a resource to anyone who feels harassed within the sport of sailing. It is a sad reality that women in sailing are treated this way, but I have seen first-hand how bad the discrimination against women can get in this community. A well-known sailor from the community I grew up sailing in said to me once, “Men are just better than women at sailing.” The worst part is that he competes with two women, one of them being his daughter. For women in this community, Brauer has not only smashed the box that male sailors have put her in but exceeded on an athletic level.
Since 29 October, Cole Brauer left Coruña, Spain and has been braving the open water on what is called the Global Solo Challenge. She is the youngest and only female sailor in the roster of twenty competing in this race. Once she completes the Global Solo Challenge, Brauer will be the first American woman to sail solo around the world. Only a couple of days ago, as this was written, she rounded Cape Horn, which is infamous to sailors as one of the roughest waters to sail through. Now she is sailing back up to Spain to complete her route around the world. She will not just be completing it though, as she has already passed six boats and only has one other boat currently in front of her. Her accomplishments have rightfully gained her a large following on Instagram, where she posts daily updates on her journey and where you can track her every step of the way. As I am writing this, Cole is speeding up South America going at 14.8 knots (about 17 mph). Her story is encouraging to women all over the United States and beyond. Once she reaches her goal of finishing the Global Solo Challenge, Brauer wishes to campaign for the Vendée Globe Race which is sailed in a 60-foot yacht. If you would like to follow her on the last part of her race, and whatever is to come in her rising career, follow @colebraueroceanracing on Instagram!
Image: Cole Brauer Facebook