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Zhik 2023 September Seaboot 700 LEADERBOARD

Rosalin Kuiper: A force of nature on board Team Malizia in the Southern Ocean

by Ed Gorman / IMOCA Globe Series 12 Mar 07:54 PDT
Team Malizia - The Ocean Race © Rosie Kuiper / Team Malizia

You may not have heard of the 27-year-old Dutch sailor Rosalin Kuiper before The Ocean Race. But you've probably noticed her by now. She's one tough, brave sailor with a bright and bubbly personality who is a key part of Boris Herrmann's crew on Malizia.

It was Kuiper who, alongside British co-skipper Will Harris, spent hours up the 90ft mast on the German-flagged IMOCA, as the team worked to repair serious damage to their rig, with Kuiper even having time to film herself up there.

This new star of The Ocean Race was brought up in the Dutch city of Zoetermeer. She started sailing at the age of six in Optimists, often taking her pet dog, Takkie, with her to start with, because she was afraid of the water. An accomplished sportswoman - she competed in athletics and hockey to national level - she fell in love with sailing during a trip to Australia at the age of 18.

But the key step was when she enrolled in the Team Heiner Youth Academy, run by former Volvo Ocean Race skipper Roy Heiner, where she learnt all aspects of her chosen vocation. The Ocean Race has been her goal for the last seven years, during which time she has completed a degree in science psychology and competed in many of the great classics, among them the Sydney Hobart Race and the Middle Sea Race.

This is her first big race on an IMOCA and Kuiper is enjoying (almost) every minute of being in the Southern Ocean for the first time. We caught up with her during a moment off watch, as Malizia surfed eastwards, southwest of Cape Leeuwin.

Rosalin, you seem to be having the time of your life. We are regularly reminded that IMOCAs are not comfortable boats in the Southern Ocean, but you seem so at home on board. What's your secret?

"You are right, IMOCAs are not the most comfortable boats in the world, but I feel very at home with the people around me. We have a very nice boat - we have a routine with a fixed watch schedule since the four hours on, four off. And that makes life very easy, because you have a very strong routine, and you really know what you are up to.

I come on watch, I make a tea, after half an hour I take over the auto-pilot and managing the performance. First I am with Will and then, after two hours, Boris is coming on watch. We have a routine like you have in a house. You have your own habits - you sleep, then make your breakfast and make your cup of tea - and then you go and do your work and that's what we have in the boat too. And that makes you feel a little bit at home.

The other thing is that the guys are super-fun. We have so much fun with Boris. I laugh my head off with Boris, like every watch. And with Will it is super-nice, and with Nico (Lunven) and Antoine (Auriol, OBR), so I really feel like I am on a trip. It's like an adventure with my mates and we are laughing and chatting. In the end we all have a common goal and we are a very tight group and we know if we have to perform or work together, we do it super-well. It is almost like a family, almost like sailing, not with my brothers, but with my very good mates."

But it's cold, rough and the motion can be violent on these 60ft foilers?

"True, but although the boat is a bit uncomfy sometimes, we are so lucky to be inside. Yes, it can be cold - the water is 10 degrees at the moment and we are sailing at 46 South. It is getting a bit chilly and we just went on deck for a sail change and you feel the cold water, but it's so comfy to be inside the boat. If I compare it with other boats we are very, very lucky so, all in all, our boat is really nice for the Southern Ocean."

This is your first time in the "Big South" - what's it like being out there in that huge wilderness?

"I really like being here. You feel the power of nature and you really realise how small you are. When you look outside, you have so much respect for the animals here. For example, the albatross - they are so massive - they live here and I realise I am just a passenger. As humans we cannot survive here - we need land, we are land animals - you feel the power of nature and respect it a lot. I can have a very big mouth sometimes, but the ocean has a bigger mouth than me. I am a bit more quiet here. I respect the nature a lot.

We are in the wilderness. It's funny when you sail away from Cape Town, you do so like a woman or a man - like a human being - and we are starting to become a bit more like animals. The longer we are away from the land, the less rules we have, and the less land rules we use. Everything is a bit more easy-going. You just sail, eat, shit and sleep and that's it, and there's not much in between.

I really like being here - you realise you are very far from land. There is no one who can rescue you - it is just us and the other competitors. And you realise really where you are, and that you should not fall off the boat, because you will never get back - it is too cold and we sail too fast. All your senses are sharp - you are very switched on - and yeah, I enjoy it."

There must be some really special moments out there?

"Yes. Sometimes we do a sort of solo watch, especially at night. You are always with two on watch, but sometimes one guy goes in the back and just has a nap. Last night I was by myself in the cockpit, sailing at 26 knots average. I had my headphones on and I listened to my music and I'm just sailing the boat and I do it with all my heart and so much passion.

I'm smiling and dancing. I really dance my ass off - it's good for my body to stretch and to move a little bit because you are very static on the boat. I could breath again. I was so happy to have the place to myself and to sail the boat, and I realised how much I love it, and how much I love to be on the sea.

You see a beautiful moon, and you see the stars, and you see the sea splashing on the roof... yeah, it's just magical and I can't be more happy than this."

Thank you Rosalin for sharing these experiences and good luck for the rest of the voyage to Brazil.

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