He lived a life full of adventures. Then it's time for the ultimate regatta. (2023)


11 minutes



As Kirsten Neuschafer steered her sailboat into the French port of Les Sables d'Olonne on April 27, crimson flashes turned the night sky a vivid red. Eight months ago, she left the port as a single woman with 16 passengers in a world race in which solo riders must use the 54-year-old technology and are barred from stopping.

Enjoy it. Choose Your Plan ArrowRight

During the 235 days at sea, Neuschafer had only a vague idea of ​​his place in the standings.golden globe fight.When the event organizer notified her of winning the prize, she could only say with a surprised expression: "Really?"

Neuschafer, 41, left his family farm outside Pretoria, South Africa, as a teenager and has lived a life of endless adventures: hitchhiking to the North Pole, training huskies on frozen wastelands, biking across Africa and leading Nautical adventure. to the bottom of the earth. But she's never done anything like the Golden Globes. Few have ever done it.


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It's the second Golden Globes ceremony since it was revived in 2018 as a replica of the famous film1968 namesake companyDuring this period, nine people attempted to sail around the world in a sailboat. (Only one completed the lap; the other is believed to have died by suicide.) It was less a race to keep the mind and the ship intact while sailing with only the instruments and communications equipment available in 1968. Lossless struggle.

Following the southbound route after leaving France, competitors stop at only four designated areas to register with race officials before heading east past the southern tip of Africa, continuing south from Australia and South America, and returning north. on a nearby boat. Even so, sailors were not allowed to leave the ship and relied on the food they packed before sailing for food. They basically work independently, except for satellite phones for emergencies.

“These people are fucking crazy,” said Alicia Biggart, a friend of Neuschafer’s.

When Neuschafer heard about the 2019 Ballon d'Or race, his first thought was "this looks great". But that was before he left on Sept. 4 in the 36-foot boat he helped rebuild.

His friends feared he was going wild, with wild eyes and wild hair. Instead, she gave a warm welcome to the finish line, holding a small plastic whoosh, looking like a calm woman.

"In fact, nine times out of ten it's been really good," he said by phone from Les Sables-d'Olonne, where he is recovering from travel. "I've really enjoyed the last few months of being one with the ocean."

Friends of Neuschafer have long been in awe of her ability to travel alone for weeks and come back as happy as she left. They love your curiosity. They marveled at her fluency in English, Afrikaans, German and French, as well as her in-depth command of several other languages, including some they had never heard of. For the most part, however, they were dazzled by stories of her adventures, much of which had to be commissioned because she never did it herself.


For example, when he visited Finland at age 19, he developed a desire to see the North Pole, bypassed the local port, and offered to peel potatoes in exchange for a trip north.

Or how he spent two years as a wilderness guide in northern Finland, carrying a gun to keep polar bears from breaking into his tent.

Or, at the age of 22, while traveling in Portugal, he decides to cycle back to South Africa, take the ferry from Spain to Morocco, and hit the back road with a small shop, water filter, stove, and a pocket knife.

Or how people in remote villages along the route scrambled to see her, she says, intrigued by "a white woman cycling through Africa." Or how, in a particularly remote part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she contracted malaria and slept in a shack for three weeks, and on the day she left, their father called her "my white daughter."


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Or how he spent the next few years working for a sailboat charter company, leading film crews on wilderness expeditions around South Georgia Island and Antarctica.

“It was very exhilarating,” said photographer and videographer Erin Ranney, who spent a month with Neuschafer on one of the trips. "She took me through a lot and made me understand that I can do it."

rebuild to the end

Neuschafer first heard about the Golden Globes in 2019, when he traveled to Maine on a charter company boat for repairs. At first he was hesitant to go in. She doesn't own a boat, and the cost of buying one and preparing it for such a test would be more than $300,000. She's not independently wealthy like many Golden Globe winners who send their boats to expensive shipyards for repairs.

It wasn't until she convinced a group of friends from Maine, including Biggart, who was willing to help her find sponsors and donors, that Neuschafer finally signed on. He spent weeks looking for a suitable boat and fell in love with the Cape George Cutter 36 in Newfoundland, named Minnehaha after the wife of Native Central American adventurer Hiawatha in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha's Song".

The name seems appropriate. She purchased the Minnehaha in late 2020 and hoped to sail in warmer locations to begin her refit, but winter weather forced her to dock on the North Shore of Prince Edward Island in January 2021. She put her in touch with local Eddie Arsenault. The boat builder, who pulled Minnehah out of the water, took her in a lobster trailer to a repair shop on his property.

Neuschafer spoke to Arsenal about his career around the world. He told her that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he will help her get Minnie back.


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"I have a long list of things to do," Arsenault said. "But it doubled and tripled very quickly."

They installed a new deck floor and reinforced the mast, creating a stock in case something went wrong during the race. They remodeled the cabinets for more storage and replaced nearly all screws and hooks.

"Every time we do something, it's like opening a can of worms," ​​Arsenault said.

The work has consumed almost all of 2021, and Neuschafer is sometimes frustrated because there is so much to do. But years of sailing the rough southern seas have shown him the advantages of having a strong, heavy boat that is lighter and faster than his competitors. He saved space for 100 cans of prepared food and nearly 100 books donated by French chef Jean-Louis Leclerc.

By the time she and Arsenault parted ways, she knew every detail of modifying the ship. When something goes wrong with Minnehaha, she'll know how to fix it.

alone but not alone

It wasn't until months after the race that Neuschafer realized how much the efforts had paid off. One by one, the other captains gave up, their ships damaged. Two abandoned their broken autopilot; one was left with rigging problems; another broke the bowsprit. Alone, with little contact and some advice from the race director, Neuschafer continued sailing, ignoring the others' problems.


"I like being alone," she said.

He fell into what he called a "routine," waking up early to watch the sunrise and planning his orientation based on the position of the morning sun. He walked up and down the ship looking for scrapes, trimmed the sails, napped in the afternoons and observed the cargo ships at night.

She never feels alone. He knows his friends are following his progress on the race website. This gave him peace.

But most of all, read.

He read historical novels written in Afrikaans by Dalene Matthee. He read the English version of Kabul Booksellers and the Spanish translation of The Cave Bear Family. To learn Xhosa, a language spoken mainly on South Africa's southern and eastern coasts, he brought textbooks and dictionaries.

When the day seemed particularly bleak, I found peace by reading chapters in "The Long Walk," by Bernard Moitessier, the original Golden Globe runner in 1968, who chose yoga as a form of travel while traveling. ways of coping with loneliness. .


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Neuschafer also read a book written in Finnish by another contestant, Tapio Lehtinen, 65, about his odyssey in the 2018 Ballon d'Or competition. The familiarity was all the more shocking when his satellite phone appeared three months into the race. An alert popped up saying Lehtinen's boat had sunk and was floating on a life raft in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

By contacting race organizers, Neuschafer learned he was getting closer to Lehtinen. Temporarily giving up the race, she turned on her mobile phone, turned on the GPS, started the engine of Minnehaha, and sailed non-stop all night before arriving.

"You have no idea how hard it is to find a life raft in the ocean," he said.

Fortunately, Lehtinen saw Minnehaha sailing. They drank rum and toasted his survival as Neuschafer helped him aboard. Shortly after, Lehtinen was transferred to a freighter, which also diverted to look for him, and Neuschafer continued his journey.

As 2022 turns into 2023, Minnehaha stands her ground. Competitors backed out until she was one of three remaining. Towards the end, it fell into a windless stagnation near the equator, where it remained for nearly two weeks. Distraught, she was convinced that someone else had overtaken her. In order to cope, he swam away from Minnehaha for a long time, until the boat turned into a vague shadow in the distance, before turning around.

When the wind finally picked up, he headed for France, determined to at least make it to the finish line. That's when he received the surprising news that he had won the lottery.

new horizons

The first few days after the race at Les Sables-d'Olonne were like one long party. Many of the people she knew from South Africa, Maine, Prince Edward Island and beyond gathered to see her. At first he was happy, but a week later he was sickcoronavirusEight months of solitude at sea had weakened his immunity.

As she recovers, she contemplates her journey, and a sense of emptiness hits her.

"It's funny how weird it feels when you do something like that," he said. "Crossing the finish line has been a lot of work since 2019. I don't think I realize it's over yet."

He wants to go back to his home in South Africa. He wants to see his sick father. He also wants to work on the Minnehaha, replacing all the items that have worn out during his travels. Then he will be separated in the empty ocean from the ship that became his friend. He won't be competing for the Ballon d'Or again. It won't be the case the second time around.

“I might have to sell it,” Neuschafer said of Minnehaha with a hint of sadness in his tone. "That's what it's all about, isn't it? When you're lucky enough to have it, it's time to pass it on to someone else."

She knew the boat would be worth more than the $65,000 she paid for it, especially given the prestige winning a Golden Globe would bring her.

"She had her last sea trial!" laughs Neuschafer, one of the few people on the planet who can understand it.

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