An offshore and inshore sailboat captain and professional sailor with dreams of being the first American woman to race solo around the world, Cole Brauer made history last month as the first female sailor to take line honors in the singlehanded first leg of the Bermuda One-Two Yacht Race.

© E. Michael Jones


“I grew up in a small town called Springs, which is a hamlet of East Hampton on eastern Long Island, New York,” says Cole. “My first boat was a kayak that I used to paddle to Springs Middle School in the mornings. I started sailing very late, at 19 years old when I moved to Hawai’i for college. The first boat I sailed was a CFJ, as part of the University of Hawai’i Sailing Team. I loved the University of Hawai’i. What a wonderful experience! I have my degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Medicine. I worked quite hard to balance my sailing offshore and inshore with getting good grades in my degree program. I loved to study and learn new things, whatever it was!”

“My favorite memories of the Sailing Team were the alumni regattas and traveling with the team. My coaches Andy Johnson and Jesse Andrews are to this day are among the best coaches I’ve ever had. They pushed me hard to be the best I could be in school, and also on the water. Andy used to say, “You are never going to look this good and you’re never going to feel this good ever again, so appreciate every second!” And he’s one hundred percent right. I try to appreciate every moment that I have on this earth. Traveling with the coaches and the team was always an awesome experience, and I always recommend people go to the University of Hawai’i and sail on the team. You’ll never find better breeze or conditions, a greater community, or a more wonderful place to train your mind and body!”

“I have had many sailing mentors over the years, but I am going to generalize and say that the women in this professional sailing world have been my biggest influences. They have pushed me to be better in every way, not only on the water. Without the professional female sailors, I would not be where I am today. For example, when sailing in the Miami One-Design circuits in Coconut Grove, we get together often and discuss how we as sailors are to move forward in our careers, what our trials and tribulations are, and together – almost like a union – we protect each other from a sometimes harmful work environment. I will protect them as they will protect me.”

“I live out my van in Newport Rhode Island, Mystic Connecticut, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and Coconut Grove and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I move around where the boats go and where I can find a job, normally north in the summers and south in the winters. However sometimes the gigs take me to live in the Caribbean for the winters and Europe/UK for the summers. It really all depends.”

A mentee with The Magenta Project, Cole is also a Mustang Survival Ambassador. “Megan Reilly is doing something very special with The Magenta Project,” she observes. “This non-profit organization relies heavily on donations to keep the program going. Meg really does it for the love of the sport and the organization itself. The Magenta Project has given me some amazing opportunities within the last year and I truly believe it’s because of Meg’s leadership. I really appreciate Mustang Survival going out of their way to provide gear for me. They have far superior gear and that’s why I wanted to be an Ambassador. They have a great range, whether I’m working one of my one-design gigs, offshore or onshore walking to the yacht club. I couldn’t have asked for a better sponsorship!”

“For this year’s Bermuda 1-2, we have entered the Class40 First Light, formerly Dragon. She has a legacy in this race. I had sailed her back from Bermuda in the last edition of this race (2021). My expectations since we are the scratch boat for this race is to win line honors, but also show that women can be a part of a winning team: as shore crew, offshore sailors, navigators, and weather routers. Serena Vilage is my sailmaker, and she repaired my main in the North Sails loft in Rhode Island before the race. I’m using Chelsea Freas as my weather router, and she very clearly did a wonderful job with routing for the singlehanded portion…we won!”

“My Co-Skipper and marine electrician for the doublehanded leg is Cat Chimney, who’s been a wonderful teammate over the last six months that she’s been a part of the program. She completely modified the boat’s instrumentation to make it shockingly easier and safer for my solo sailing. It’s very, very hard to find a great marine electrician in this industry, and Cat has exceeded expectations.”

What’s next for Cole? “I am using the Class40 First Light as a training platform for a large solo campaign to be the First American Woman to Race Solo Around the World,” she says. “I want to join the many amazing female sailors on the world stage for the 2028 Vendée Globe; the non-stop, unassisted race around the world that’s sailed in IMOCA 60s.”

“If you’re interested in sailing offshore and you are a woman, please don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. It’s all about hard work. Put your head down and work. I started sailing very late but I put my head down, made great contacts, and pushed to make sure that I had a job the next day. One of the best things about sailing is the community!” ■

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