Zhik team sailor Kirsten Neuschafer has claimed multiple records and set her name in history with the heroic first place finish in the 2022 Golden Globe Race. When she crossed the finish line her Cape George 36 "MINNEHAHA" she officially became the first woman to win a round the world race by the three great capes, including solo and fully crewed races, non-stop or with stops, and the first South African sailor to win a round-the-world event!
South African skipper Kirsten Neuschafer, set off in early September with support from Zhik, as the only woman skipper in this 3rd ever edition of the solo Golden Globe Race 2022 (GGR).
The 2022 Golden Globe Race is runs on a very simple outline: Depart from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on September 4th, 2022 and sail solo, non-stop around the world, via the five Great Capes and return to Les Sables-d’Olonne. Undertaking the race however, is a very different story. The event, originally won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, takes place in traditional ‘old school’ boats using only the equipment and technology that was available for the 1968 race, with the exception of clothing and food.
Clothing is an exception to the original equipment rule, not least as it would be hard to find the yellow sou’westers and oiled wool jumpers worn back in the day. Charly Hewett, Kirsten’s team manager explains, “Kirsten is one of the most experienced skippers in the GGR, undoubtedly a favourite although she’s very modest. However, when I saw the state of her oilskins she planned to wear for the nine month long race, of which six months would be in the Southern Ocean, I had to do something. As a professional sailor myself, Zhik has always been my brand of choice when it comes to technical sailing gear. So, I wanted the best for her too.”
Kirsten, who is using Zhik’s OFS900 ocean gear, CST500 coastal gear, mid-layers and Fuze shoes for the GGR, is not able to communicate directly with her family or team during the race. However, she is however allowed to hand over letters at each of the four ‘video’ drops during the race when she meets up with the Race Committee boat.
“Kirsten posts a daily race ‘tweet’ to the race organisers which we’ve noticed are often short, direct and without elaboration,” adds Johnny Rodgers Zhik’s sponsorship manager. “For a woman who keeps her communications very succinct, it was simply amazing for the Zhik team to receive this note in one of her letters, via Charly.”
Kirsten has written, “Another thing I’m really enjoying is my foulies! Man, that Zhik stuff is the best foul weather gear I’ve ever worn. Usually it’s such a drag to get into foulies, but with this new stuff it’s a real joy. I can’t believe you managed to pull that off at the the 11th hour and that they were so willing to be supportive. Please tell them a big thank you from me and put it on a Facebook post how thrilled I am with the gear!”
Competitors must sail in production boats between 32ft and 36ft overall (9.75 – 10.97m) designed prior to 1988 that have a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge. These yachts are heavily built, strong and sturdy, similar in concept to Sir Robin’s 32ft vessel Suhaili. In contrast to the current professional world of elite ocean racing, this edition travels back to a time known as the ‘Golden Age’ of solo sailing.
During the race Kirsten also hit the headlines for successfully rescuing fellow competitor Tapio Lehtinen in the Southern Indian Ocean. Diverting 105 miles off her course to reach him, Kirsten got Tapio safely on board her yacht Minnehaha and gave him a glass of rum before putting him back in his liferaft to transfer to a bulk carrier ship heading to China. She had to manoeurve the liferaft over to the ship in a 3 to 5 metre swell where they caught a line to pull Tapio in liferaft over to the ship’s boarding ladder. No easy feat in a small yacht next to a 230m ship.
In her modest, understated way Kirsten said to the race management team, “No congratulations needed for the rescue, everyone would do the same for another sailor. Thank you guys for coordinating it.”