Speaking With Kirsten Neuschäfer, the First Girl to Sail and Win the Golden Globe


The nonstop, round-the-world Golden Globe Race has turn out to be a banner of “retro crusing,” or “crusing prefer it’s 1968.” Entrants for the competitors, which begins and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, are required to sail small boats alone, utilizing solely pre-Sixties-era expertise — no satellite tv for pc communication, autopilot, cellphones or radar. Programs are plotted utilizing celestial navigation and a sextant.

The champion this 12 months was 40-year-old Kirsten Neuschäfer who, after 235 days at sea aboard Minnehaha, her 36-foot Cape George sailboat, turned the primary lady to each full and win the race.

However Ms. Neuschäfer is fast to state that being a figurehead was by no means the purpose.

“I did need to win, however not as a result of I’m a lady, or as a result of I needed to set a document as being the primary lady,” she mentioned. “I needed to be there as a sailor and as an equal.”

Her accomplishments — not solely finishing and successful the race, but additionally rescuing a fellow sailor — actually promise to boost her profile. The Golden Globe, which debuted in 1968, looms giant in sailor’s lore — a lot of the competitors takes place within the excessive latitudes of the Southern Ocean, circling between South Africa and South America, across the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, an space recognized for punishing winds and towering waves. The race has been referred to, aptly, as “a voyage for madmen.”

Rising up in Pretoria, South Africa, Ms. Neuschäfer was all the time drawn to the outside, and to epic experiences.

“I cherished studying accounts of adventures — Scott and Shackleton and Amundsen,” she mentioned of the famed Twentieth-century polar explorers. “It actually planted the seed in my thoughts.”

After biking solo from Europe to South Africa at 22, Ms. Neuschäfer started crewing on sailboats in pursuit of her skipper’s license, and later, on the helm, she sailed analysis and movie crews across the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Georgia and Falkland Islands. In preparation for the Golden Globe, her first race, she bought and refitted Minnehaha in Canada, then sailed the boat solo to South Africa and to France for the race’s begin.

Ms. Neuschäfer lately spoke in regards to the voyage, the challenges of the doldrums — an space close to the Equator affected by gentle winds — and the opportunity of one other circumnavigation. This dialog has been condensed and edited for readability.

I positively had moments after I thought: “This may very well be fairly scary.” Earlier than the race, I used to be visiting my mother and father in Port Elizabeth, which is called the Windy Metropolis, and it was an evening when it was actually windy. I used to be mendacity in my mattress in the home with none hazard, however I might hear the bushes bending. I used to be pondering, “Properly, within the Southern Ocean, you’re going to expertise winds which might be a lot stronger that these winds, and on a 36-foot boat.”

I did. However sarcastically, these moments weren’t due to heavy climate, they have been due to a complete lack of wind. I bought caught within the doldrums simply south of the Equator for the most effective a part of two weeks. It’s usually mentioned by sailors that essentially the most tough moments are the calms, as a result of when you’re experiencing heavy climate, you’ve bought one thing to maintain you busy. There’s a little bit of adrenaline. While you’ve bought completely no wind in any respect, it’s extremely irritating.

I didn’t usually get bored. I made certain that I took plenty of studying materials. It’s the one psychological escape; you learn a guide and also you simply submerge your self into the world of no matter this guide is describing. And there’s all the time one thing to repair on the boat. There have been occasions after I would have favored to talk to a buddy, to listen to them inform me to only maintain going. Eight months is a really very long time to be in a single place — you’re shifting, however the place you’re in is similar. Within the doldrums, I’d go for good swims, which might assist me de-stress a bit.

Two-minute noodles. They’re not that nice to start with, however after a number of months, I might nearly style the plastic taste of the wrapper.

I might have a glass of wine or perhaps a bit sip of rum. These rituals have been fairly vital. It was crucial for me basically to set milestones and never simply deal with the tip of the race.

There was form of a unhappiness as soon as I rounded Cape Horn. It felt like attempting to summit a mountain: That is the summit and from right here on it’s the descent. There was pleasure and happiness and reduction. However this had turn out to be a life-style, and it could be ending quickly. I had some trepidation about arriving in a spot the place I used to be anticipated. I had moments the place I assumed, “, I’ve nonetheless bought loads of meals and water. I’m nonetheless having fun with myself.” I’d haven’t any problem to only maintain crusing.

That’s one query I haven’t been capable of reply simply but. I’ve put a lot focus and vitality towards the Golden Globe Race since 2019. And now it’s all come to fairly an abrupt ending. I purchased Minnehaha on debt, and I all the time deliberate to promote her after the race. But it surely’s laborious as a result of I’ve finished a lot with this boat. I’d prefer to perform a little journey to get a little bit of closure, and I’ll most likely take a little bit of a break simply to digest this wonderful expertise.

I’d prefer to spend time in my very own nation of South Africa, significantly Transkei, or the Japanese Cape — it’s a spot that’s simply paradise to me. I’d prefer to grasp the language, Xhosa. I’d love to return to the Antarctic and the Falkland Islands. There are a whole lot of locations that I’ve been, however then once more, there are additionally a whole lot of locations I’ve by no means explored. There’s nonetheless lots to do on this lifetime. And I believe at some stage, although not anytime quickly, I would need to do one other circumnavigation. It might be completely totally different, as a result of the seas are eternally altering.

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