Teacher becomes first woman to row Indian ocean solo

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The Independent Online

A British biology teacher spoke today of her delight after becoming the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean.

Sarah Outen, 24, from Rutland, finished the 4,000-mile trip yesterday after arriving in Mauritius.

She nearly failed to complete the journey after a 19ft wave capsized her boat as she rowed in to the island.

Speaking at the end of her four-month expedition, Miss Outen said: "It's been an incredible journey and all a bit mind-boggling.

"I was swinging between laughing and smiling about it all, and bursting into tears with sorrow that the whole thing was about to come to an end.

"I'm so excited. It's going to take a little while to settle in, to come to terms with what I've gone through and what I've achieved."

At 24, Miss Outen is the youngest woman to row across any ocean. She is only the eighth woman to have rowed across an ocean solo.

Of nine previous solo attempts to cross the Indian Ocean, only three have been successful, all of them by men.

Miss Outen rowed 64 nautical miles on her last day as she attempted to enter the record books.

As she tried to navigate her way through a narrow gap in the coral reef that encircles Mauritius, her 19ft boat, named Serendipity, was hit by a large wave, capsizing it.

"I knew that if I failed to get back into the boat, and make it to the safety of the reef itself under my own power, the row might be classed as incomplete," said Miss Outen.

"Worse still, having rowed all this way, I wasn't about to ask for a rescue when I was just 300 metres from the entrance to the bay.

"The boat rolled at least three times and a lot of gear was washed out of it, including my communications equipment.

"After the sheer physical exertion of the last 24 hours it was a real struggle to get back in, but I made it to the reef and set off flares to alert the support team waiting in the bay and signal the end of the adventure."

This was Miss Outen's second attempt after her first effort failed when strong currents threatened to push her into the Southern Ocean and the boat's electrical systems failed.

So far, Miss Outen has raised more than £11,000 for the Arthritis Care Charity. She dedicated the trip, and her new world record, to her father Derek, who died three years ago.

Miss Outen's mother Helen added: "At long last I have been able to have a real hug from Sarah rather than a virtual one on the phone.

"The last time I saw her was in February, when I waved goodbye at the airport as she set off for Australia.

"It scares me to think of my little girl completely alone at sea being battered by huge waves, but she has been so strong and determined.

"I am immensely proud of the way she has been so determined in her efforts. She has been a real inspiration to many people, both old and young, in completing such an impressive feat."