Best of ExplorersWeb 2009 Awards: Sarah Outen, Indian Ocean crossing

Posted: Dec 28, 2009 03:05 am EST

The Indian Ocean: a fickle, unpredictable beast. And yet this year Sarah Outen became the first woman to row across it from Australia to Mauritius single-handed, unsupported and at only 24 years old; the youngest.

"Adventures make life real and exciting," Sarah told ExWeb about how the dream came to, "I had known since a youngster that I would live for adventures."

Pretty much every spare minute of the last years had gone into the preparations. "When you have a dream you have to make it happen," Sarah said. "It's all or nothing."

She approached the quest with unusual maturity, collecting information from other adventurers and training hard. "The biggest challenge is psychological I think," she said. "The body will follow through anything if you want it bad enough. So I needed to know I had taken my body to places it didn't want to go - ultra marathons and endurance events."

"Ultimately, you just have to believe and be strong," she said and then just like that, "I am ready for it," she announced.

Her eclectic iPod list was loaded with Winnie the Pooh, War and Peace, Jane Austen and various adventure books. The music shuffled between Mozart's 5th, Queen, The Rolling Stones, the Dixie Chicks, Fleet Foxes and Sigur Ros.

Out there whales, albatrosses, and pilot fish were waiting to accompany the lone girl swimming in the deep blue or surfing the waves. Her dad had died very suddenly in 2006, and the voyage was dedicated to his memory. The sea gave Sarah plenty of time to think and grow strong.

It was a simple life, and an examined one. The young explorer was not spared scary mid ocean capsizes. "But the most frightening was on my final approach to the island, where the coastal shelf makes for very steep breaking waves," Sarah told ExWeb. Beaching is the hardest and Sarah noticed:

In short, I was rolled, at least three times, by some huge breakers as I approached the entrance to the bay, meaning that instead of coming through the channel in the reef to walk up onto the beach, I came to rest on the reef itself. I said I was determined to hit Mauritius, and I did!

After 124 days without seeing a soul, Sarah arrived 20 kilos lighter and with a backside beat up with salt sores. Except for forgetting to bring a hairbrush and a plankton net, there were no regrets.

"There is an energy out there on the oceans that I have found nowhere else it is addictive, refreshing, testing," she told ExWeb. "I love the different moods and the way it can go from still calm to raging beast in an instant. It is fickle and beautiful."

Virtually every explorer will have the same, single advice for victory and Sarah chimed in when asked for hers: "Never, but never, give up."

Related story: The quest for the first female row across the Indian Ocean - ExWeb's interview with Sarah Outen, "and so began the dream".

Related story: ExWeb interview with Sarah Outen, Dont underestimate the strength of the ocean or what it takes to put the campaign together.

Previous in the countdown:
6. New route on Nanga Parbat
7. 14x8000ers summiteers.
8. AJ & FTA, corporate compassion
Special mentions:
- Good guys leaving too early: Tomaz, Piotr, Serguey, Martin, Oscar, Roby...
- GIII/GIV attempt and rescue.
- Nives Meroi, fame for love.
- North Pole-Greenland crossing and polar records.

#Oceans #feature #choice

I had always wanted to row - I love the water and being the engine for the boat. My Oxford days were all flat water racing but it was while a student here that I heard about ocean rowing. Oceans and rowing - a perfect combination, and so began the dream. Image courtesy of Sarah Outen/ (click to enlarge).

Each day I would make a list of Good things about today you have to find different things to focus on when mileage isnt great or the weather is against you. Image of Sarah during the crossing courtesy of Miss Outen/ (click to enlarge)
Image of Sarah on the Indian Ocean courtesy of Miss Outen/ (click to enlarge)
Image of Sarah finding her land legs courtesy of René Soobaroyen/ (click to enlarge).
"Talk to as many different ocean rowers as you can, go with the best boat builder around, prepare and train, and pack lots of chocolate, Sarah told ExWeb. Arrival image courtesy of René Soobaroyen/ (click to enlarge)

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