1 Apr 2011

British teacher sets off on ‘mad’ round-the-world mission

Channel 4 News meets the British woman aiming to shatter records by cycling and rowing around the world alone, via some of the most dangerous roads and roughest oceans.

British adventurer Sarah Outen has set off one of the most difficult and dangerous solo round-the-world expeditions ever attempted.

The 20,000-mile trip will see her cycle across Europe and Asia and row solo across the North Pacific. The 25-year-old will then get back on her bike to cross North America before rowing home across the North Atlantic.

Only two men have ever rowed solo across the North Pacific and Ms Outen is aiming to become the first woman to achieve the feat.

The explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has described the expedition as “definitely mad, definitely marvellous”.

“Definitely mad, definitely marvellous.” Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Outen, 25, first made it into the record books in 2009 when she rowed solo across the Indian Ocean.

She completed the 4,000-mile trip from Western Australia to Mauritius in four months, despite capsizing and being dashed against coral reefs just a few hundred yards from the finishing line.

Outen is the youngest woman to row across any ocean and only the eighth woman to have rowed across an ocean unaccompanied.

The adventure that began today at Tower Bridge will see her cross the English Channel in her kayak, Nelson, before getting on her bike, Hercules, for the 7,800-mile trip to eastern Russia.

She will cross to Japan and then begin potentially the most dangerous stage of the journey – the 5,000-mile trip across the North Pacific in her small boat, Gulliver.

It will be two-and-a-half years before Outen makes it back to Tower Bridge for the official end of the expedition.

She won’t be coming home or taking breaks between the different legs of the journey.

‘Rich heritage’

Outen said: “We’ve such a rich heritage of pioneers, mariners and ground breaking expeditions from the UK – so I’m proud to be flying the flag. It’s cool to be spreading the word that women do crazy expeditions too – there are a lot of beards in this field!

“It’s stomach churning stuff and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared: I am full of adrenaline right now – 90 per cent excitement, 10 per cent nerves.

“The roads are the scary bits – there’s a real possibility of being knocked from the bike at any time, or squashed by a truck, so I need to stay focused.

“The oceans are something else entirely. I’m still scared of jumping in the ocean.

“On my Indian Ocean row there were times when I felt physically awful, I was hallucinating and more tired than I’ve ever been in my life. Capsizing within sight of Mauritius, with the boat rolling and rolling and me wondering if I’d die was a low point last time, but I can’t wait to get out on the sea again.”

The trained biology teacher will be writing an educational blog for schools along the way and will be able to talk to pupils around the globe from the cabin of her boat.

Outen said she was inspired to take on the challenges by her late father Derek, who died young after a long battle with illness.

She told Channel 4 News: “I saw my dad suffer really bad ill health with rheumatoid arthritis, and so he had lots of opportunities taken away from him, and he died very young at 53.

sarah outen (getty)

“That to me is the biggest motivation to get out there and take life by the scruff of its neck.”

She added: “I could die. That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? But I could die crossing the road. Anyone could get squashed or suffer something that ends their life immediately.

“The point is, you don’t know what’s around the corner and I think life’s too short not to do these things.”

Sir Ranulph, described in the Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer”, said: “She will face dangers on a daily basis which only the hardiest could tolerate.

“But I’m sure she will succeed and confirm that she is an adventurer and expeditioner second to none