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Kirsten takes the Golden Globe Race crown! Huge Les Sables D'Olonne prize giving celebration

by Golden Globe Race 25 Jun 2023 11:43 PDT 24 June 2023
South African yachtswoman Kirsten Neuschäfer, winner of the 2022/3 Golden Globe Race, is greeted by the crowds when taking to the stage to collect her trophies © Barry Pickthall / GGR / PPL

In the history of sailing one event changed everything. The Golden Globe Race sits high in the mind of all sailors and one man, Sir Robin Knox Johnston, winner of the first edition in 1968 has inspired tens of millions ever since. He was the first ever to complete a solo, non stop, unassisted circumnavigation in the first ever around the world yacht race. The second 2018 GGR presented another sailing hero to the world, French sailing hero Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, taking the crown at 73 years of age!

Today, South African sailor Kirsten Neuschäfer climbs into the record books and takes the crown as the latest winner of the GGR, in what is now firmly recognised the world over, as the the most demanding exploit and human challenge for any individual, in any sporting event on the planet. Kirsten is the first woman to win a solo around the world yacht race. With over 250,000 miles of ocean sailing experience, an adventurous background and able to speak many languages, she is inspiring millions around the globe through her GGR adventure.

The city and community of Les Sables d'Olonne put on a celebration befitting the achievements of all 16 sailors who set out 293 days before. Only three finished, Kirsten Neusthfer (ZAF), Abhilash Tomy (IND)- Bayanat and Micheal Guggenberger (BE) NURI, but all who entered are heroes in their own way. With the celebration stage set facing the ocean looking out across one of the top 100 beaches of the world, thousands of Les Sables and international fans packed the forecourt to follow the presentations. When done, a concert party kept the fun alive well into the night ! It truly was an exciting time and an exceptional party for all!

"This third edition of the GGR was another true adventure with an unknown outcome and a display of real human spirit and courage. Every day was a new story that kept millions around the world captivated. I thought we would see half the fleet finish, but it was not to be! The GGR family of followers, sailors and non-sailors around the world has grown dramatically in this edition and the support from Les Sables d'Olonne has been a major factor in this. " Don McIntyre Founder and Race Chairman.

GGR sailors back to Les Sables d'Olonne!

Emotions and camaraderie ran high as the skippers started gathering from all corners of the globe earlier this week, welcomed by Yannick Moreau, Mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne and President of LSO Agglomération. It was the first time they were all in the same place, nearly a year since the start of the Golden Globe Race on September 4th 2022.

They developed strong camaraderie and friendships at the Les Sables GGR village before setting out into the unknown. The depths of that friendship increased during hundreds of days on the high seas with their SSB HF radio conversations and even rescue in the Southern Oceans! They are all friends for life!

GGR skippers meet the public, boats on display and some for sale for 2026!

With the Enjoy Ocean Festival happening at the same time as the GGR Prize giving, the "Ponton du Vendée Globe" was quite a sight for sailor and non-sailors alike, as the small, long-keel, pre-1988 GGR yachts were surrounded by voluminous Class 40's and beast looking IMOCA 60's of the Vendee Globe. While the Enjoy Festival enabled the public to go for a sail, sometimes for the first time and experience the same exhilarating feeling as the skippers of the racing machines.

"It's a fantastic celebration of the sea and ocean racing. The beautiful yachts on display this weekend on the dock show how far naval architecture has gone in the last 35 years, and how those little yachts, and skippers like Robin Knox Johnston, Jean-Luc Van den Heede and Kirsten Neuschäfer who are paving the way for others across oceans and around the world. " Sébastien Delasnerie, GGR Race Director

Thousands walked the dock and met the skippers at their boats and after the prize-giving, a busy and sunny Saturday afternoon, similar to the one in September as they prepared to set off to follow a dream and prove something to themselves during the solitude, psychological pressure and all the oceans during the longest sporting event in the world.

Some boats changed hands, ready to go around again for the 2026 edition, some are still for sale, including circumnavigating yachts from Guy Waites' Sagarmatha, Simon Curwen's Clara and the GGR winner, Kirsten Neuschäfer's Minnehaha.

Interest is strong in the 2026 edition and places are filling fast. The GGR is now closed for Rustler 36 yachts where all seven available entries have been filled. Interestingly two leading 2022 yachts are not on the market, Damien Guillou's Rustler 36 PRB in the shed and Pat Lawless' Saga 36 Green Rebel, with both skippers keen to come back, should the stars align for a 2026 entry!

All skippers at the start of the GGR received a Golden Globe, and all skippers having completed a circumnavigation within the event including Simon Curwen (GBR) and Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF) sailing an exemplary circumnavigation in the one-stop Chichester Class received an historic piece of Bernard Moitessier's Joshua's hull cut out from her recent refit.

Elliott Smith (USA) received the GGR Communicator Award from the hands of Christian Maréchal, President of the Musée Maritime de La Rochelle for embodying the spirit of Bernard Moitessier during this edition. A fitting tribute to the 27 y/o American adventurer whose philosophical vision of the event earned the nickname of the "American Moitessier".

Retired Naval commander and 2018 entrant Abhilash Tomy (IND) received the McIntyre Adventure Spirit of the GGR Award from General Zubin Bhatnagar, Defence Attaché to the Paris Embassy, for embodying the necessary perseverance and fortitude to be at the start, let alone finish, of the hardest and longest sporting event in the world, following a harrowing 2018 dismasting and rescue.

The GGR winner Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) received the Kay Cottee "First Lady" Trophy named after the first woman to perform a solo, non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation, and the Golden Globe from Jane Zhou, co-founder of the GGR and the GGR Perpetual Trophy from previous 1968 winners Sir Robin Knox-Johnson and France's own 2018 winner Jean-Luc Van Den Heede!

"It was an incredible race. I love this race, because it has an incredible human density, the humility of the sailors in the face of an event, a nature that goes beyond them and transcends them. I love the simplicity of the relationships, the atmosphere on the pontoons, the family spirit that reigns in this race. It's unique, it's a praise of slowness and a hymn to freedom, it's a free act, by free sailors for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration. " Yannick Moreau, Mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne

2022, the year of maturity for the Golden Globe Race

The 1968 edition with only one entrant completing the circumnavigation back to Falmouth of the Golden Globe Race was coined "A Voyage for Mad Men". Fifty years later, the 2018 edition, several dismasting and rescues in the Southern Oceans and only five finishers, was a dramatic re-edition of the original race. The film of the 2018 GGR "The Voyage of Madmen" is available here.

The 2022 edition albeit with three finishers only and two Chichester circumnavigators marked the emergence of the Golden Globe Race as a stand-alone event, receiving recognition from the IMOCA and other oceanic classes as a special event, who has its own particular place in the calendar of round-the-world racing along the high-tech carbon machines of the Vendée Globe and Ocean Race.

The numbers of followers, visitors on the website and tracker have been staggering, bringing sailors and non-sailors alike around a group of like-minded adventurers. The GGR website had 4,481,365 Visits from followers who opened 17,301,243 Pages for a look! The GGR LIVE tracker had nearly 30 Million hits during the race, while GGR Facebook had a total reach of 3,153,096. Instagram reached 1,121,611, GGR Youtube received 3,200,000 views amounting to over 300,000 hours! Then 41,813 people opened a sound cloud satellite phone recording and GGR Twitter with tweets from entrants had 5,236,000 impressions.

While the GGR Team thought achieving the same coverage as the 2018 edition would be difficult after losing contenders with a strong following such as Damien, Tapio or Pat in Cape town in reality it never changed. 2022 looks like achieving better, stronger and more qualitative coverage of the event in the Atlantic, through the dramatic Atlantic climb with the Kirsten and Abhilash duel, and Simon's incredible journey back to Les Sables d'Olonne.

"It was clear to me when sailors were crossing the Southern Ocean that the feeling of the GGR with followers was changing as they understood what was happening. Losing entrants was accepted as part of the game and an expression of just how challenging and demanding the GGR is, no matter how good the sailor or the boat! This extreme effort to go the distance seems to attract special sailors and interest is very strong for the 2026 edition 3 years out from the start! " Don McIntyre, Founder and President of the GGR.

The media have been covering the 2022 edition intensely in many parts of the world with more mainstream international print and online outlets, radio and TV channels giving a larger platform to sailing and non-sailing audiences alike. The GGR has tasked Meltwater with analysing and valuing the coverage of this edition to be published in the future. In 2018 it was valued at US$185 million.

Don, Jane and the whole GGR team wishes to thank the Entrants without whom there would not be a race, our host port of Les Sables d'Olonne and the partners for providing the GGR a home, as well as the extended GGR family for a fantastic and historic 2022 edition! See you in 2026 and watch out for the Movie early next year.

2022 GGR Finishers:

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"

2022 GGR Retired:

1. Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah's Jest
2. Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
3. Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
4. Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
5. Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
6. Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
7. Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
8. Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
9. Elliot Smith, (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
10. Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha
11. Ian Herbert Jones (52) / UK / Tradewind 35 - "PUFFIN"

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