Who is the woman who is beating everyone to the round-the-world sailing tour

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While Clarisse Crémer is dumped by the sponsor because she is a mom-read the controversy here-it is another woman’s turn to prove (if there was still a need) that there are no gender distinctions in the ocean. It is South Africa’s Kirsten Neuschäfer, leading the Golden Globe Race (nonstop solo round-the-world race on “vintage” boats with long keels and zero instruments) and first to round Cape Horn.

Kirsten Neuschäfer, the South African sailor leading the Golden Globe Race
Kirsten Neuschäfer, the South African sailor leading the Golden Globe Race

Women and sports: the case of sailing

Needless to deny it, women’s sports are very often regarded as an adjunct to their male counterparts. Although about 70 percent of sports offer the same amount of prize money for men and women, only 4 percent of the total commercial investment in sports goes into women’s sports. Therefore, for several years, the sports world has been working to try to break down gender gaps. In a report released by World Sailing Trust on women in sailing. in December 2019, it emerged 80 percent of women respondents and 56 percent of men believe that gender balance is an issue in the sport and that 59% of women surveyed, compared with 14% of men, say they have experienced discrimination: experiences of isolation and harassment, being treated as less competent and being insulted on board, lack of opportunities for women and girls, being gender-stereotyped, and receiving less support than their male counterparts. Fortunately, sailing has a great advantage over other sports, the wind and waves don’t care whether you are a man or a woman, you are a sailor, which would potentially allow men and women to compete on an equal playing field.

Who is Kirsten Neuschäfer

Kirsten, 39, has been drifting since childhood, but has made it her profession since 2006. With many miles of ocean experience behind her, including solo sailing, Kirsten Neuschäfer is one of the most experienced skippers in the Golden Globe Race 2022. For several years, since 2015, he has worked with Skip Novak on his pelagic expeditions to South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula, Patagonia and the Falklands. He has experience as a sailing instructor and has worked as skipper for Leopard Catamarans in Cape Town, delivering boats to the Caribbean, North America, South America, Europe, the Mediterranean, Union Island, New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong.

Kirsten Neuschäfer aboard Minnehaha, her Cape George 36
Kirsten Neuschäfer aboard Minnehaha, her Cape George 36

Minnehaha: the fastest cutter in the fleet

He also has one of the fastest boats. His Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha, built in 1988 by the Cape George shipyard (near Seattle in the U.S.), has a sail area of 75 sq. m., and is perfect for withstanding the bad weather of the Southern Ocean. Kirsten did most of the refitting work herself on her boat in Prince Edward Island (in Canada), where she was trapped during the COVID-19 pandemic after sailing the yacht from Newfoudland. With a new mast and reinforcing plates around the spreaders and shrouds, moorings, a new deck, hull fittings and broadside, Kirsten has already crossed the Atlantic alone with Minnehaha , from Canada to South Africa, before heading up the coast to the start of the regatta in Les Sables d’Olonne, allowing her to conduct a real test in the water and refine her storm tactics.

Kirsten at work on Minnehaha
Kirsten at work on Minnehaha

Kirsten Neuschäfer and the rescue “in the waters back home”

On Nov. 19, after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, Kristen was featured in a heroic rescue in the waters off Port Elizabeth, her native home. Finnish sailor Tapio Lehtinen, after his Asteria sank, was recovered in less than 24 hours by the South African sailor, the first of three competitors alerted by the organization to reach the life raft. Kristen reached the castaway after spending the entire night at the helm. Hardly an easy task with 20 knots of wind and 2 to 3 meters of wave, Kristen in fact could not see the life raft despite hearing Tapio’s voice on the VHF that had spotted her. A rescue that earned her the OCC Seamanship Award, an Ocean Cruising Club award given to all those sailors who have distinguished themselves by feats of exceptional seamanship and/or courage at sea.

James Barbaro

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