Absolutely ecstatic’: British woman is first to row solo from Japan to Alaska

Sarah Outen celebrates after she rowed solo from Japan to Alaska. Courtesy Sarah Outen

A British woman has become the first person to row solo from Japan to Alaska – a 3,750 mile route that experts called one of the most dangerous crossings of its kind.

Sarah Outen battled huge waves, high winds, and freezing temperatures with no support vessel. She capsized five times during the trip and has not seen another person in 150 days.

The 28-year-old landed at 11 a.m. local time Monday (4 p.m. ET) in a small harbor on the Aleutian island of Adak in the Mid Pacific, some 600 miles from the mainland.

“She said she was absolutely ecstatic,” said Jenny Ellery, one of Outen’s team on land. “The weather has been pretty tricky out there so it’s a huge relief that she’s made it.”

Tapiana Crutchlow, a data coordinator at the Ocean Rowing Society, said Outen's row did not qualify as cross-Pacific - she would have needed to reach the Alaskan mainland - but that she had become the first woman to complete a mid-Pacific row from West to East.

“Even to dare to do it is incredible,” said Crutchlow. “The Pacific is much harder than the Atlantic because in the Atlantic at least there’s the Gulf Stream and it’s not as long. There are different sorts of waves and unpredictable winds. Even the water is colder in the Pacific.”

She said a West-East crossing was more difficult than the other way because it involved traveling north and into more difficult conditions at the end of the journey.

Outen’s triumph is just one section of an attempt to travel round the world "London2London" using only the power of her own muscles. She is raising money for four charities: cancer charity CoppaFeel!, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, the motor neuron charity MND Association, and Wateraid. She has so far raised £19,000 (about $30,000) of her £100,000 target.

She set off on April 1, 2011 from London’s iconic Tower Bridge before kayaking down the River Thames and across the English Channel to France. From there she cycled more than 10,000 miles across Europe, Russia, China, and then Russia again, before paddling and cycling the 1,000 miles to Japan via the remote island of Sakhalin.

Sarah Outen in her vessle, Happy Socks. Courtesy Sarah Outen

Her first attempt to row the Pacific in May 2012 ended in disappointment – and almost in tragedy - after Tropical Storm Mawar almost destroyed her vessel, Nelson, just 25 days into the trip. This resulted in a dramatic rescue by the Japan Coast Guard.

Undeterred, she came back this April with a new team and a stronger boat, Happy Socks, and tried again to complete the most daunting leg of her journey.

After a grueling 3,750 miles she got within half a mile of Adak but swells and dangerous rocks meant a fishing boat was sent out tow her the rest of the way.

She was met by team members who flew out with Champagne and fruit.

“She thoroughly enjoyed her hot bath, home-cooked food and a fabulous welcome from the people of Adak,” a blogpost written by her team said Tuesday.

Ellery said this treatment was a world away from what Outen’s life had been like for the previous 150 days.

“I don’t think she has had what anyone would call a normal routine for the past five months,” said Ellery. “Everything is just so weather-dependent.

“Towards the end of the journey she has had to make her own water with her on board water-maker, which converts sea water so you can drink it. This is usually solar powered, but because it’s been so overcast she has had to do this by hand.

“She has been able to wash things, but it’s not washing as we know it, just a bit of a rinse in sea water.”

Outen will now travel back to the U.K. and prepare for the next leg of her journey. In spring 2014 she will kayak through the Aleutian Islands to mainland Alaska, before cycling through Canada and the U.S. to the East Coast.

She will then take to the ocean once more, rowing solo across the Atlantic.

As her blog casually puts it: “ETA London – Autumn 2015.”