damn, grrrl!

She’s done it!! 

Kirsten Neuschafer crossed the finish line today to win the third edition of the Golden Globe Race. The Golden Globe Race is a retro single-handed around-the-world race modeled on the original race that took place in 1968. Her unofficial course time was 235 days and 8 hours.

There are a number of things that stand out about her outstanding achievement.

Kirsten is the only female in a field of 31 entrants. Sixteen made it to the start line in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France; there are just three left in the Golden Globe Class. Kirsten, the Indian sailor Abilash Tomy who was just 130 miles out from the finish when she crossed that magical line to complete her solo lap of the planet, and the Austrian sailor Michael Guggenberger who was making his way up the Atlantic with roughly 1,800 miles to go.

The second important thing to know is that there are two classes in the event. All competitors start off in the same class but if anyone has to stop for repairs, they are entered in the Chichester Class. Simon Curwen from Great Britain won the Chichester Class finishing just a few hours ahead of Kirsten with South African Jeremy Bagshaw also making his way up the Atlantic with around 2,600 miles to go.

The third important thing to know is that Kirsten also has around 23 hours in the bank. This was the amount she was awarded for diverting course to rescue Tapio Lehtinen, a fellow competitor, whose boat sank. Just think about what an extraordinary person she is to not only win the race but to have saved the life of a fellow competitor.

The next important thing to know, and this is just for my ego, is that Kirsten is a fellow South African. She cut her teeth sailing high latitudes with my mate Skip Novak so I take some pride in that. I am hoping that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa extends some kind of congratulations. Most of South Africa have been following the race.

Lastly, and this still boggles my mind, until she actually crossed the finish line she had no idea that she had won the race. As part of the retro rules, competitors have no GPS tracking on board; indeed they navigated by sextant, and during their weekly satellite calls with the Race Organizers they were never told the locations of the other competitors. Kirsten, like the others, have been sailing blind.

Kirsten will join an elite club of extraordinary sailors that includes Sir Robin Knox Johnston who won the first Golden Globe back in 1968, and the indomitable French sailor Jean-Luc Van Den Heede who won the race four years ago. Thats a pretty elite club. 

Racing on a budget that barely existed, powered by a wing and a prayer, Kirsten sailed into the history books. She was very well prepared having sailed from Prince Edward Island in Canada to Cape Town, South Africa and then up to France as a shakedown. She knew every inch of her boat and her preparation was impeccable. Kirsten surrounded herself with some of the best sailors in the world who were able to advise her up until the start gun fired; after that she was on her own and has been on her own for the better part of a year.

Her 36-foot Cape George Cutter named Minnehaha is a solid, seaworthy yacht that proved its pedigree. I know that Paul Revere got the accolades but I always thought that his horse should have received more recognition so I am recognizing Minnehaha .

Let’s all celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment and feel better about our sport. – Brian Hancock.