15 April 2021

Like ‘Wild’ but wilder, meet Sarah Outen

February 3, 2015
Like ‘Wild’ but wilder, Sarah Outen has undertaken an incredible voyage around the globe by human power alone. Sue Mott spoke to Sarah ahead of her last leg to complete her human powered loop of the world. outen-sets-off-on-her-journWhen actress Reese Witherspoon bought the rights to the story of a young woman who went into the American wilderness, hiking alone along 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trial, she was being acutely perceptive. The role in the film ‘Wild’, set in the American wilderness, has just won her an Oscar Nomination.Now meet Sarah Outen. Like ‘Wild’ – only wilder. Currently on the last leg of her attempt to loop the planet by human power only, the 29-year-old Englishwoman has encountered every obstacle from nature’s most vicious storms to her own emotional breakdown – and triumphantly survived.

The adventure began on April 1, 2011, and continues this month with a gruelling cycle ride en-route to New York.

Even though she’s on Skype, 4000 miles away, when we talk, with her bike Hercules propping himself up impatiently in the corner, the story unravels in all its gory and spectacular glory. She’s brilliant at making you see it through her eyes.

“It’s a little bit like being under a dining room table,” she says of her rowing boat. “You can touch either side of the cabin with your hands. If you sat up you’d hit your head. It’s quite a cosy little capsule.”


That’s one way of putting it. ‘Cosy’ is about the 3,658th word most of us would use and only when we’d exhausted every synonym of ‘horrifying’. When Outen decided to go round the world by bike, rowing boat and kayak in 2011, she had a strong conviction that – however vast and unknown the challenge – she would somehow succeed. Then she capsized in a North Pacific tropical storm.

“It was a monstrous one. Winds of up to 70mph. 50-60-foot waves, even bigger. It was terrifying. You’re being chucked and smashed in all directions. You sometimes struggle to understand which way around you are.

“There’s the fear that something really catastrophic is going to happen and wipe you out in an instant. And there’s nobody out there. You are totally alone.

She was rescued 600 miles out to sea by the Japanese coast guard. “I saw my little boat disappearing. I had two senses. One, ‘That’s my boat gone but I’m going to come back and get it one day’, and two, ‘S***, now I really understand why people are worried about me because it’s tiny!’

“As they were feeding me, one of the coastguards brought me some things they’d removed from my boat without me knowing. One was the tracking beacon which I’d left on board deliberately to help me come back and find it. Gulliver (her boat) was gone. I didn’t know where. But I’m still hopeful that one day he’ll turn up. Read the rest of the article and watch the film here

Sue Mott, BT Sport

Outen is a BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award contender for January. See the rest of the contenders here and join the conversation on Twitter #ActionWoman.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Select a sport

Find out how to get started, training plans and expert advice.