At 7:30 UTC, Cole Brauer reached the equator after two weeks at sea, competing in the inaugural Global Solo Challenge. She has proved dominant in the first stage of the race, becoming the first of her starting group to reach this milestone. The “budget-friendly” solo sailing race will have sailors circumnavigating the globe by the three great capes, beginning and ending in A Coruña, Spain.
At just 29 years old, Brauer is one of five Americans on the roster of 20 skippers competing in the race. She is both the youngest skipper and the only female sailor in the fleet. If successful, she will be the first American woman to have raced solo around the globe.
The Global Solo Challenge has a pursuit start, meaning that competitors were assigned a start date based on their boat’s speed ratings. All other things being equal, the boats could be expected to finish around the same time, leaving the results up to the skill of the sailors and the weather conditions. Brauer, sailing the Class40 First Light, departed with six other boats on October 29.
Since her start, Brauer has twice set new 24 hour distance records for the course (220 and 265 nautical miles) and is consistently on the projected finishers podium, calculated based on each boat’s performance up until that point.
She has been leading the October 29th pack, which includes fellow Americans Ronnie Simpson (Shipyard Brewing) and David Linger (Koloa Maoli), for several days. The next step is to start overtaking boats from previous starts, beginning with Canadian skipper William MacBrien aboard the Class40, Phoenix, who also crossed the equator this morning and is about 65 miles south of Brauer. He departed one week before her on October 21 alongside the Finnish Class40 ZEROchallenge and the Bulgarian Farr 45 Espresso Martini, both of which have rounded the course’s WP6 off the Brazilian coast.
“I’ve been sitting here reflecting on the past two weeks, and it’s been really amazing. I’ve laughed, cried, screamed, yelled, puked. And I’m just so unbelievably grateful that I get to do this. I’ve always wanted this,” Brauer said in an emotional video message yesterday. “I’m just so grateful for it. Grateful for my boat, for all the people supporting me.”
This morning at dawn she took a brief break from battling equatorial squalls to make an Aperol Spritz (her team’s unofficial drink) and offer it, along with some rum and a lock of her hair, to King Neptune for a safe journey. This sailor’s tradition is a rite of passage when crossing the equator and grants sailors the honorary title of “shellback.”
“In typical First Light fashion, we’re crossing the equator at first light,” she said. “I brought two things for the equator crossing, one of them is mostly a tribute to my team and I—our signature drink, which is the Aperol Spritz—and of course some rum for King Neptune.”
The joyful ritual follows a long, difficult week of extreme heat (some days seeing as much as 90 degrees inside the boat and 94 outside) and unrelenting squalls in the tactically challenging doldrums.
After completing the Global Solo Challenge, Brauer intends to campaign for the 2028 Vendée Globe—the highest level of solo circumnavigational races. Her race can be best followed at colebraueroceanracing on Instagram or on the Global Solo Challenge’s race tracker: globalsolochallenge.com/tracking.
Brauer is a Long Island native who began sailing while attending the University of Hawaii at Minoa. After moving back east, Brauer spent several years captaining First Light, then called Dragon, for a previous owner who raced the boat primarily on the east coast and in Caribbean circuits. New owners purchased the boat in late 2022 and offered to let her continue sailing it for the season, during which Brauer won the 2023 Bermuda One-Two with co-skipper Cat Chimney. The duo were the first women to win the event in its 24-edition history. After that victory, Brauer set her sights on the Global Solo Challenge.