28 April 2023 – SA Sailing have hailed the efforts of solo South African sailor Kirsten Neuschäfer, who made history on Thursday night by becoming the first woman to win the prestigious Golden Globe round-the-world race.
Neuschäfer was the only female sailor to contest the race which required competitors to circumnavigate the globe without the use of modern technology or the benefit of satellite-based navigation aids.
The Gqeberha sailor set off on the epic 48,000km solo round-the-world challenge from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on 4 September last year.
Her journey has included a dramatic mid-ocean rescue when one of her fellow competitors got into trouble and needed urgent assistance.
According to the Golden Globe Race website, in reaching the finish in front on Thursday, Neuschäfer 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.
Before setting off on the challenge, Neuschäfer explained: “I truly love adventure – it really is what drives me. And I love to undertake these adventures alone and know that I only have myself to rely on once I am out there, to know that I will have to dig deep within myself to find the strength that I need to overcome the inevitable obstacles. I love the unknown! It really is a way to get to know myself, and to know my own potential – very much an inner journey too.”
This is not the first massive solo adventure Neuschäfer has embarked on. A few years ago she cycled around 15,000km down the African continent from Europe to South Africa on her own.
President of SA Sailing Michael Robinson heaped praise on Neuschäfer for her phenomenal achievement, saying: “South Africa has had other sailing heroes like Bertie Reed and John Martin who have done the circumnavigation, but Kirsten is the first South African to do it non-stop and unassisted. How’s that for a gender statement?
“We are so proud of Kirsten. She has made not only the country’s sailing community but the whole of South Africa proud and provided an exceptional example to both women and men of what’s possible with incredibly hard work and determination.”
Photo credits: Kirsten Neuschäfer