South African skipper Kirsten Neuschafer is currently in third place, and has been sailing up to 170 miles a day in her Cape George 36 cutter

‘Things are going really well. I have no complaints and I am really enjoying myself,’ said 2022 Golden Globe Race skipper Kirsten Neuschafer, when speaking to Yachting Monthly a month after crossing the start line in Les Sables d’Olonne.

The South African solo sailor has clawed her way up the leaderboard in the last week, and is currently in third place behind British skipper Simon Curwen and Finn Tapio Lehtinen.

Her Cape George 36 cutter has the biggest sail area of the fleet – 806 sq ft – and has been delivering impressive daily averages of 170 miles, helping her to push towards the front.

Speaking during one of two 20 minute media calls which the Golden Globe Race skippers are authorised to take a week, Neuschafer said she was enjoying her solitude on board, and was happy to be away from the press and public attention.

Kirsten Neuschafer setting sail from Nova Scotia on her Cape George 36 Minnehaha bound for Cape Town, 8.000 miles southeast.Credit:Team Kirsten/ GGR2022

Kirsten Neuschafer has valuable experience sailing the Agulhas current off South Africa, where she learnt to sail. Credit:Team Kirsten/ GGR2022

‘I wanted to get away. It was difficult to concentrate on preparing for such a big trip while having a lot of the public and media interest, as well as attending events,’ she explained.

Unlike fellow skippers Tapio Lethtinen and Damien Guillou who sailed westwards at the start, beating into 25-39 knot headwinds, Neuschafer, like Curwen, sailed south towards the Galician coastline, where conditions were milder. It is a decision she would now rethink.

‘I had a bit of a disappointing start: I feel that I should have gone the offshore route with my boat, and then I would not have had to deal with all the windlessness. I wasn’t expecting a full depression and then also days of very light wind on top of the topical depression. The wind has been unusual. I didn’t expect the tropical depression, I didn’t expect all the light winds after that. I was hoping for trade winds that haven’t come through, but it has made the sailing more interesting. The light wind stuff, I always find that is where the sailing gets ever so cyclical with the sail trimming, but I’ve actually been enjoying it. I’ve spent the majority of nights up on the deck, helming and observing, and I have actually been really enjoying that,’ said Neuschafer, who prior to taking part in the Golden Globe Race, worked for Skip Novak aboard Pelagic Australis, sailing to South Georgia, The Antarctic Peninsula, Patagonia and the Falkland Islands.

Kirsten Neuschafer will seek professional help to plan the optimum route for the Golden Globe Race 2022. Credit: Eddie Arsenault

Kirsten Neuschafer spent months refitting her Cape George 36 cutter for the race. Credit: Eddie Arsenault

She said the start of the race, sailing down Les Sables d’Olonne famous channel with crowds waving and cheering, was ‘overwhelming’, and there had been ‘adrenaline-fuelled’ moments, including sailing in confused seas and 15-20 knot winds.

‘I’ve really enjoyed my solitude, and I’ve had some really adrenaline-fuelled moments, like helming the boat through squalls with the gennaker where it was a really bit on the edge because we were in a situation where I didn’t have the nerve to leave the tiller, so those were pretty exhilarating moments; I am not saying I want to repeat them, but they have been exhilarating.’

Continues below…

Her boat, Minnehaha is now entering the Doldrums, and like the rest of the skippers, Neuschafer is searching for the wind.

‘The Doldrums haven’t been bad yet as I still have breeze so I am still able to carry sail and I am still moving. I had some lighter wind days which were more concerning. Right now, I feel that if I can carry sail and keeping moving then I am alright.’

Asked if she was missing anything, she said: ‘Yes, ice cream. It would be nice to have in this tropical heat.’

Neuschafer said she was ‘very happy’ with her Cape George 36, which she spent months refitting in Prince Edward Island, rebuilding the boat’s bulwarks and installing a new deck, chainplates, hull fittings, an aluminium mast and reinforcement plates around the spreaders and cap shrouds.

Kirsten Neuschafe, golden globe race skipper, carrying rope

Kirsten Neuschafer has spent years sailing and preparing boats for the Southern Ocean with Skip Novak. Credit: MARINEMEDIA.BIZ

The 39-year-old, who grew up and learnt to sail in South Africa, spent years repairing and moving abandoned boats from the Indian Ocean port of East London.

So far, there have been no breakages, although a moments lack of concentration led to some flooding down below.

‘The only thing that cost me a few hours and a little bit of work was I forgot to close the sink valve in the heads. And then when I tacked over, the water starting flowing in through the sink and I didn’t notice immediately. So, I probably took on about 100 litres of water and its gotten to some of my food stuff, and took a little bit of time to get that stuff dried but nothing major. It was just a stupid thing that I forgot to do,’ she said.

The Golden Globe Race fleet is now heading into the Atlantic where they have to keep the Brazilian island of Trinidade to port before heading towards the second photo gate at Cape Town.

Kirsten Neuschafer is making good daily speeds in her Cape George 36 cutter. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

Kirsten Neuschafer is pleased with the performance of her Cape George 36 cutter. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

In an earlier interview, Neuschafer, like several other skippers, had raised questions about the wisdom of the Cape Town gate, due to the weeks of 30-40 knot southeasters which can develop during October and November, and the strong currents off the continent shelf. She previously said she ‘would have avoided that coastline like the plague unless I intended to make landfall.’

She admitted that she is now looking forward to it.

‘At first, I really didn’t like the idea of the Cape Town photo gate but it is not going to change and I’ve reconciled myself to the idea, and I am actually looking forward to seeing Table Mountain and following the coastline that I know and love. Yeah, I am looking forward to it.’

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 05 October 2022 at 0810 UTC

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Elliot Smith,  (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning


Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut

Enjoyed reading  Golden Globe Race: Kirsten Neuschafer on her race so far?

A subscription to Yachting Monthly magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.

Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.

YM is packed with information to help you get the most from your time on the water.

        • Take your seamanship to the next level with tips, advice and skills from our experts
        • Impartial in-depth reviews of the latest yachts and equipment
        • Cruising guides to help you reach those dream destinations

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.