Somewhere in the Southern Pacific Ocean, Kirsten Neuschafer is alone on her boat, Minnehaha, as she tries to outmaneuver the newest storm to cross her path as she approaches Cape Horn.
Instead of crusing straight for the tip of South America, she’s spent the previous day heading north in an effort to skirt the worst of the oncoming climate. The storm is threatening wind gusts as much as 55 miles per hour and seas constructing to 25 toes.
Her plan, she explains over a scratchy satellite tv for pc telephone connection, is to get away from the eye of the storm. “The nearer I get to the Horn,” she says, “the extra critical issues develop into, the windier it turns into.”
But there’s no turning again. That’s as a result of Neuschafer is battling to win what is presumably the most difficult competitors the crusing world has to supply — the Golden Globe Race. Since setting off from the coast of France in September, Neuschafer, the solely lady competing, has left all rivals in her wake. Of the 16 entrants who departed 5 months in the past, solely 4 are nonetheless in the race, and for the second a minimum of, she’s main.
The race is a solo, nonstop, unassisted circumnavigation, a feat first completed in 1969, the identical 12 months that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon. Since then, extra folks have traveled to area than have carried out what Neuschafer is hoping to perform.
The race is a throwback in most each means. Unlike its extra well-known cousin, the Vendée Globe solo nonstop race with its purpose-built vessels made for velocity, Golden Globe entrants sail low-tech boats that would not look misplaced in any coastal marina. And they accomplish that with out fashionable digital aids — no laptops or digital charts, radar or refined climate routing. To discover their place at sea, individuals as a substitute depend on navigating by the solar and stars and easy velocity calculations.
Racers do not do it for the cash. The prize of 5,000 kilos (about $6,045) is the identical because it was in the Sixties and is not even sufficient to cowl entry charges. The actual lure is the problem.
“The single-handed facet was the one which drew me,” Neuschafer, who is from South Africa, says of her resolution to enter.
“I actually like the facet of crusing by celestial navigation, crusing old style,” she says, including that she’s at all times wished to know “what it could have been like again then when you did not have all the fashionable know-how at your fingertips.”
Satellite telephones are allowed, but just for communication with race officers and the occasional media interview. Each boat has collision-avoidance alarms and a GPS tracker, but entrants cannot view their place information. There’s a separate GPS for navigation, but it is sealed and just for emergencies. Its use can result in disqualification. Entrants are permitted to make use of radios to speak with one another and with passing ships. They’re allowed to briefly anchor, but not get off the boat nor have anybody aboard. And no one is allowed to present them provides or help.
The race motto, “Sailing prefer it’s 1968,” alludes to the indisputable fact that it is primarily a reboot of a competitors first placed on that 12 months by the British Sunday Times newspaper. In it, 9 sailors began, and just one, Britain’s Robin Knox-Johnston, managed to finish the first-ever nonstop, solo circumnavigation, ending in 312 days. Despite main at one level, French sailor Bernard Moitessier elected to desert the race in an effort, he stated, to “save my soul.” Yet one other, British sailor Donald Crowhurst, died by suicide after apparently stepping off his boat.
Bringing the race again in 2018 for its fiftieth anniversary was the brainchild of Australian sailor and adventurer Don McIntyre, who describes the competitors as “an absolute excessive thoughts recreation that entails whole isolation, bodily effort … ability, expertise and sheer guts.”
“That units it aside from all the pieces,” he says.
For sailors, it is the Mount Everest of the sea
Neuschafer, 40, is a veteran of the stormy waters she’s presently crusing, having labored as a constitution skipper in Patagonia, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. Although she’s been around Cape Horn earlier than, this time is completely different, she says.
Previously she’s been around “the Horn” when she might select the circumstances. But nonstop from the Pacific, with restricted climate data, “I’d say, it is a notch up on nervousness. It’s nearly like … attempting to achieve the peak of Everest,” she says.
Probably the most harrowing second to date on this 12 months’s race got here in November, when Neuschafer sailed 100 miles, staying at Minnehaha’s helm by means of the night time to rescue Finland’s Tapio Lehtinen — one in all the finishers in the 2018 race. She plucked him from a life raft some 24 hours after his boat, Asteria, sank in the southern Indian Ocean.
For the rescue, race officers broke protocol and allowed her to make use of GPS and gave her a time credit score on the race. “I mainly sailed all through the night time and by morning I received inside vary of him,” she says.
Spotting Lehtinen’s tiny life raft amid 10-foot waves was removed from straightforward, Neuschafer says. “He might see … my sail [but] I could not see him, not for the lifetime of me.” She later managed to switch him to a freighter.
That incident strengthened for her how issues might change at any second. In the Golden Globe, she says, “a giant proponent of it is luck.”
The days may be serene, but additionally isolating
The drama of such days at sea is offset by others spent in relative peace. A typical day, if there is such a factor, begins simply earlier than dawn, she says, “a good time to get the time sign on the radio in order that I can synchronize my watches,” which she wants for correct celestial navigation.
“Then … I’ll have a cup of espresso and a bowl of cereal, after which I’ll look ahead to the solar to be excessive sufficient that I can take a cheap [sextant] sight.” A stroll around the deck to see if something is amiss and maybe a little bit of studying — at the moment it is The Bookseller of Kabul by Norwegian journalist and creator Asne Seierstad — earlier than one other sight at midday to examine her place.
Or maybe some music. It’s all on cassette, since opponents aren’t allowed a laptop of any type. As a end result, she’s listening to a lot of ’80s artists, “good music that I ordinarily would not hearken to,” she says.
The isolation was tougher for American Elliott Smith, who at 27 was the youngest entrant on this 12 months’s race. He dropped out in Australia because of rigging failure.
Reached in the Australian port metropolis of Fremantle, the surfer-turned-sailor from Florida says he would not solely rule out one other attempt at the race in 4 years. But for now, he is put his boat, Second Wind, up on the market. He appears circumspect about the future.
“It was actually apparent that I ended having fun with the crusing in some unspecified time in the future,” he confides about the rigors of the race. “There had been moments … the place I discovered myself by no means going outdoors except I needed to. I used to be like, ‘I’m simply staying in the cabin. I’m simply studying. I’m depressing.’ ”
Smith says there have been days when he would see an albatross, but was too mentally exhausted to understand the fantastic thing about it. “I used to be like, ‘This is so unhappy, you recognize?’ Like, I’ve develop into complacent [about] one thing that most individuals would by no means even attempt, you recognize?”
Neuschafer, too, has had her share of frustrations. The newest was a damaged spinnaker pole, which retains her from setting twin ahead sails on the 36-foot-long Minnehaha — her most well-liked setup for working downwind.
She’s wanting ahead to ending in early spring. But first, she nonetheless has to traverse the total Atlantic Ocean from south to north.
“I’ll get off and luxuriate in feeling the land beneath my toes.” After that, she says, “the very first thing I’d love to do is eat ice cream.”