Young explorer embarks on monumental ‘human-powered’ world trip

Sarah Outen, 26, will spend two-and-a-half years travelling 20,000 miles around the globe using only a rowing boat, kayak and a bike

Phileas Fogg thought he had it tough. But, the fictional character’s round the world challenge using trains and ships seems easy compared with the task facing one of Britain’s newest adventurers. Sarah Outen’s solo ‘London2London’ loop of the globe will take more than 30 months and will be powered using only a rowing boat, kayak and bicycle.

The 26-year-old set off on her extreme challenge from Tower Bridge in London on 1 April 2011 and will navigate three continents, rowing solo across the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. Outen’s journey is somewhat extraordinary – nobody has ever rowed this combination of oceans in a single journey around the globe, or otherwise. She has trained for several years, accomplishing such feats as becoming the youngest person – and first woman – to row single-handedly across the Indian Ocean, in 2009.

The young woman has won the praise of a number of greats, including renowned explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who was the first man to cross Antarctica on foot. “Sarah Outen has already demonstrated her skill and determination in her record-breaking row across the Indian Ocean,” said Fiennes, speaking as president of the charity Transglobe Expedition Trust, which is supporting the new adventurer.

“London-to-London via the world is a significantly greater challenge,” Fiennes added. “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. Definitely mad, definitely marvellous.”

Within 65 hours of starting her journey, Sarah arrived at Calais after a choppy overnight crossing on the English Channel by kayak. She then set off on her bike ‘Hercules’ to travel 7,800 miles in 22 weeks through France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and then back into Russia. After that, she will make the crossing to Japan via the remote island of Sakhalin, using boat and bike.

 “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,” – Sarah Outen

The final leg will see Outen row solo across 5,000 miles of the North Pacific in her tiny boat Gulliver, before cycling 3,000 miles from Vancouver to New York, and finally rowing 2,500 miles home over the North Atlantic.

Before she left, Outen was feverishly excited about the monster challenge and refused to allow nerves to get the better of her. “It’s stomach churning stuff and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared,” she admitted. “I am full of adrenaline right now – 90% excitement, 10% nerves. The roads are the scary bits, there’s a real possibility of being knocked from the bike at any time, or being squashed by a truck, so I need to stay focused.

“The oceans are something else entirely. On my Indian Ocean row there were times when I felt physically awful, I was hallucinating and more, but I can’t wait to get out on the sea again,” she said.

Outen is overjoyed to be a woman joining the ranks of great British adventurers. “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,” she commented. “It’s cool to be spreading the word that women do crazy expeditions too – there are a lot of beards in this field!”

She will talk to schools via video link, along the way, through her website and is hoping to inspire young people to be ambitious about meeting challenges in their own lives.

Outen’s remarkable venture will see her raising money for breast cancer charity Coppafeel!, Wateraid, The Jubilee Sailing Trust and MND.