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Golden Globe Race: Kirsten Neuschäfer on the cusp of making sailing history

by Les Sables d'Olonne 17 Feb 09:03 PST
Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZA) on MINNEHAHA currently leading the race © Kirsten / GGR2022

After more than five months alone at sea, 40-year old South African Kirsten Neuschäfer made history last night as the first woman to round Cape Horn at the head of the solo round-the-world Golden Globe Race.

Kirsten Neuschäfer left Les Sables d'Olonne 164 days ago, without a telephone, GPS or technology with one goal: to win the ancestor of the Vendée Globe. The only woman on the starting line, she has survived the odds without assistance - drinking rainwater, braving storms and diving into the middle of the ocean to clean her hull.

She has even saved fellow competitor Tapio Lehtinen, whose ship had sunk.

Kirsten's feat goes further than a token win, it is an incredible achievement given the difficulty of the Golden Globe Race. Among the breakages, despair, abandonments and shipwrecks, the flame has been extinguished for most of the competitors. Last September, there were 16 participants at the start in Les Sables d'Olonne. Now there are only four.

With only a simple sextant to orient themselves, they have had a very turbulent season, worthy of a Netflix series. The conditions became even tougher two weeks ago.

Englishman Simon Curwen, who was leading the race until then, had to abandon his post after a giant wave hit his boat, breaking his windvane gear. Kirsten, however, held on and continued to widen the gap: 300 miles with her runner-up, Indian Abhilash Tomy, 1,200 miles with the third, Austrian Michael Guggenberger, while Ian Herbert-Jones was far behind in fourth position.

Leaving behind the formidable Roaring 40s and Howling 50s winds, Kirsten is now beginning her climb up the Atlantic.

Abhilash Tomy, the incredible sea captain, was in great difficulty last night near the Chilean coast. But nothing stops him. Showing unparalleled ingenuity, the sailor managed to repair his boat before facing Cape Horn.

Kirsten is expected in mid-April in Les Sables-d'Olonne. The people of Sables, the Vendée region and all sea lovers are hoping to welcome this heroine, who could be the first woman to win a solo round-the-world race under sail.

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