Neuschäfer and 15 other competitors, all men, set off from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on Sept. 4, 2022, with the goal of making it around the world across the Big Five Capes before returning to the coastal city in western France.
Participants race alone, non-stop, and in boats reminiscent of the “golden age” of solo sailing – yachts must be designed before 1988 and without electronics or autopilot.
The race is based on the 1968-1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe race which saw Sir Robin Knox-Johnston become the first person to circumnavigate the globe, sailing solo on his boat the Suhaili without stopping.
By the time the South African Neuschäffer crossed the line on Thursday, only two other sailors were on track to complete the race without stopping.
Finishing with an official time of 233 days, 20 hours, 43 minutes and 47 seconds, Neuschwehr said her boat – Minnehaha – was her “mate”, Rthroughout the adventure.
“I talked to her a lot. I even got angry with her, but I love her very much,” Al-Muntasir explained to each Sail World. “It’s a fast, elegant boat, I worked a lot on it for a year. I had the will to win as soon as I signed up for the race and did all my preparation accordingly.”
Neushavir also touched on the issue of gender given that she was the only woman in the race, adding: “I wanted to win, not as a woman. I didn’t want to be in a separate class but to compete on an equal footing with all the skippers.”
Les Sables-d’Olonne Mayor Yannick Moreau paid tribute to the 40-year-old Neuschäfer’s achievement.
“The only woman at the start of the longest sporting event in the world has excelled and become a legend,” Moreau said. “It is truly a historic moment that we just experienced at Les Sables-d’Olonne.”
“Through her athletic achievement, courage and heroism… Kirsten has become a global role model and reference. At Les Sables d’Olonne we are happy and proud to see her legend born.”
Not only did Neuchavir win, but during the race the South African veered out of her way to save fellow competitor Tapio Lehtinen.
Lehtinen’s boat sank, and the Finnish captain was stranded for more than 24 hours in the southern Indian Ocean. The eventual winner was the first to reach Lehtinen and save her fellow competitor.
“We drank rum together and then sent him on his merry way.. no congrats needed for the rescue, everyone would do the same with another sailor, thanks guys for coordinating this,” Neuschaffer told Race site.
“Unapologetic tv specialist. Hardcore zombie trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver.”