It is 9:43 p.m. when Kirsten Neuschäfer crosses the finish line in first position in Les Sables-d'Olonne, in Vendée. Barefoot and smiling, the neo-African sailor is making history. After 235 days at sea, she won the 3rd edition of the Golden Globe Race and became the first woman to win a solo circumnavigation.
Almost eight months after her departure, she was greeted by a crowd of people who came to congratulate her. "It's a lot after all these months alone, I'm very, very moved, very honored that there are so many people here. It's incredible. I don't think you can experience something so strong a second time," the 40-year-old said upon arrival. During her voyage, she will have crossed the three capes of reference: Good Hope, in southern Africa, Leeuwin, in southern Australia, and Horn, at the southern tip of America.
By September, 16 competitors had started the race, non-stop, without assistance and without modern means of navigation. Kirsten Neuschäfer, aboard her boat called Minnehaha, a small nutshell of less than 11 meters built before 1988, as also required by the regulations, had been prepared for four years before setting off from Les Sables last September. She was the only female in this Golden Globe Race.
Of the sixteen starters, only two other sailors were still in contention on Thursday to finish the race. The Indian Abhilash Tomy should arrive in Vendée in the coming days, and the Austrian Michael Guggenberger, currently off the Canary Islands.
"I have achieved this dream, now I can move on," said Kirsten Neuschäfer, who has no plans to embark on any other offshore projects after this achievement. "I'm going back to South Africa, see my family and my dogs. I will go to a little piece of paradise along the coast, take a tent, walk and make a small fire at night. There's nothing more relaxing," she said.