Golden Globe: Kirsten Neuschäfer Wins

Published on April 27th, 2023

(April 27, 2023) – The Golden Globe Race competitor Kirsten Neuschäfer, a South African whose life as a sailor has practically defined the word “adventure,” today won the 2022-23 edition, becoming the first woman to win a solo round-the-world race.

British solo sailor Simon Curwen crossed the finish line after 234 days and 22 hours of racing. Curwen is the first solo skipper to complete the course. However, he is not eligible to win the event, which is a non-stop race, as he had to put into Puerto Montt in Chile to make repairs to his windvane system. This demoted him to ‘Chichester’ class, although he resumed racing after making repairs ashore.

Neuschäfer finished in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, where she began nearly eight months and some 30,000 miles ago, crossing the line to a massive hero’s welcome. In sharp contrast to the rough conditions she experienced during much of her voyage, Neuschafer, aboard her 36-foot Minnehaha, spent the last few hours with almost no wind, inching into the harbor.

In her 36-foot Cape George cutter Minnehaha, Neuschäfer not only won, she took line honors as well, without needing the 35-hour time allowance she earned by rescuing fellow sailor Tapio Lehtinen when his boat sank south of Cape of Good Hope.

She was first to round Cape Horn, and though the leg up the Atlantic saw her lead diminish, she never stopped pushing herself or her boat.

In ocean-racing terms, it was a photo finish for the final week, with GGR veteran Abhilash Tomy, racing his Rustler 36, Bayanat, at times within 45 miles of Neuschäfer. In the end, she pulled away; when she crossed the line, Tomy was about 135 miles behind, predicted to take second place.

This would be a redemptive and fantastic finish for Tomy as well, after suffering a terrible injury in the 2018 race. While sailing strongly in third place, he was rolled and dismasted in the southern Indian Ocean, suffering back injuries that left him unable to move his legs. He was rescued three and half days later; after arriving home in India, he underwent surgery to have five vertebrae fused and titanium rods placed in his spine.

This edition of the Golden Globe Race started on September 4, 2022, with 16 competitors, all men, except for Neuschäfer. At the time of her finish, only three competitors (herself, Tomy, and Michael Guggenberger, who was still 1,800 miles to the finish) remained in the running. Two more (Simon Curwen and Jeremy Bagshaw) were racing in the Chichester class, a class for those disqualified for making a stop but who wanted to continue to the finish anyway. Curwen finished just ahead of Neuschäfer on April 27.

Harkening to the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race of 1968, won by Sir Robin Knox Johnston, today’s GGR requires that vessels are production boats between 32 and 36 feet, designed before 1988, with a full-length keel and rudder attached to their trailing edge. The racers must navigate with sextant on paper charts and use no electronic instruments or autopilot.

Neuschäfer’s Cape George cutter, launched in 1988, was built by Cape George Marine Works in Port Townsend, Washington. She has sailed it with obvious verve, skill, and real joy. The GGR boats must be production boats designed before 1988 and between 32 and 36 feet long.

The rescue of Lehtinen happened last November some 450 miles southeast of South Africa in the southern Indian Ocean, when his 36-foot Gaia, Asteria, sank in a gale. Neuschäfer was the closest sailor to him, 95 miles away, and was able to reach him in fewer than 24 hours, taking him aboard Minnehaha from his life raft and later transferring him to a merchant ship that had been diverted to the scene. (For this rescue, she earned the 2022 Cruising Club of America’s Rod Stephens Seamanship Trophy.)

Neuschäfer grew up sailing and has made it her profession since 2006, training others and delivering boats. But she has taken her profession in directions that have been far from ordinary. According to her bio on the GGR site, her longest solo delivery was from Portugal to South Africa, “with only a windvane as self-steering, on an old and maintenance-intensive 32-foot ferro-cement sloop.”

She has spent many seasons in Antarctica, working with Skip Novak on his Pelagic Expeditions and with National Geographic film crews. Even off the water, her life has been one of singular adventure and challenge, including, at age 22, cycling alone from Europe to South Africa, over 9,000 miles.

Neuschafer’s closest rival, Abhilash Tomy, an Indian navy commander, is about a day behind her. Another competitor, Austrian sailor Michael Guggenberger, is not expected to finish for several more days.

2022 GGR entrants to date current positions:
1. Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / Cape George 36 – “MINNEHAHA”
2. Abhilash Tomy (43) / India / Rustler 36 – “BAYANAT”
3. Michael Guggenberger (44) / Austria / Biscay 36 – “NURI”

2022 GGR Chichester Class:
1. Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36 – “CLARA”
2. Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32 – “OLLEANNA”

Event detailsEntry listTrackerFacebook

Finish times will be adjusted as race organizers have issued credit for helping with the rescue of Tapio Lehtinen:
• Kirsten Neuschäfer: 35 hours + 30 litres of fuel
• Abhilash Tomy: 12hrs

2022 GGR Class:
1. Kirsten Neuschäfer (39) / South Africa / Cape George 36 – “MINNEHAHA”
2. Abhilash Tomy (43) / India / Rustler 36 – “BAYANAT”
3. Michael Guggenberger (44) / Austria / Biscay 36 – “NURI”

2022 GGR Chichester Class:*
1. Simon Curwen (63) / UK / Biscay 36 – “CLARA” (will stop to repair windvane)
2. Jeremy Bagshaw (59) / South Africa / OE32 – “OLLEANNA” (stopped in Hobart to clean hull)
* Competitors shift to this class by making one stop.

Edward Walentynowicz (68) / Canada / Rustler 36 (dropped out, Sept. 8)
Guy deBoer (66) / USA / Tashiba 36 (ran aground, Sept. 16)
Mark Sinclair (63) / Australia / Lello 34 (retired in Lanzarote, Sept. 22)
Pat Lawless (66) / Ireland / Saga 36 (retired in Cape Town, Nov. 9)
Damien Guillou (39) / France / Rustler 36 (retired in Cape Town, Nov. 14)
Ertan Beskardes (60) / UK / Rustler 36 (retired in Cape Town, Nov. 16)
Tapio Lehtinen (64) / Finland / Gaia 36 Masthead sloop (sank off Cape Town, Nov. 18)
Arnaud Gaist (50) / France / BARBICAN 33 MKII-long keel version (retired near Saint Helena, Dec. 9)
Elliott Smith (27) / USA / Gale Force 34 (retired, Dec. 20)
Guy Waites (54) / UK / Tradewind 35 (stopped in Cape Town to clean/paint hull; retired in Hobart after losing his liferaft, Feb. 10)
Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35 – “PUFFIN” (rolled/dismasted northeast of Cape Horn, April 10)

About the 2022 Golden Globe Race
On September 4, 2022, the third edition of the Golden Globe Race started from Les Sables d’Olonne, France. Sixteen skippers will face eight months of isolation sailing 30,000 miles before finishing in Les Sables d’Olonne. Along the route there are several marks of the course and media requirements.

In 1968, while man was preparing to take his first steps on the moon, a mild mannered and modest young man was setting out on his own record breaking voyage of discovery. He had entered the original Golden Globe. Nine men started that first solo non-stop sailing race around the World. Only one finished. He was 29 year old Sir Robin Knox Johnston. History was made. Navigating only with a sextant, paper charts and an accurate and reliable time piece, Sir Robin navigated around the world.

In 2018, to celebrate 50 years since that first record breaking achievement, the Golden Globe Race was resurrected. It instantly gained traction with adventurers, captivated by the spirit and opportunity. Eighteen started with five finishers.

To embrace the original race, competitors must sail in production boats between 32 and 36 feet overall and designed prior to 1988 that have a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge. Additionally, sailors have limited communication equipment and can use only sextants, paper charts, wind up clocks, and cassette tapes for music.

Source: Sail Magazine, GGR

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