Tapio Lehtinen’s racing partner Kirsten Neuschäfer saved the Finn in the Golden Globe Race last November. Despite the rescue operation, Neuschäfer won the entire race.
A solo sailor Tapio Lehtinen competitor and friend Kirsten Neuschäfer saved a Finn last November after his boat sank in the middle of the Golden Globe Race. It is the most challenging sailing race in the world, where you proceed without stops or outside help.
After winning the race, Kirsten Neuschäfer became the seventh sailor and the first woman to finish the grueling Golden Globe Race. On Tuesday, he traveled to Finland to christen the Lehtinen team’s new racing boat, of which he acts as godfather.
– This is a great honor for me. Tapio is a wonderful person and sailor. Finland also has a special place in my heart, which is why this is even more unique, says Neuschäfer.
The rescue operation lasted more than 34 hours
Last November, in the middle of the Golden Globe Race, Neuschäfer was informed that Tapio Lehtinen’s boat had sunk. At that moment, he was second in the race and closest to Lehtinen’s life raft.
– From that moment on, the competition no longer mattered. It’s probably a natural reaction for anyone when someone else is in trouble, Neuschäfer recalls.
Neuschäfer stayed awake all night, sailing as hard as he could with his boat Minnehaha. Approaching the life raft, Neuschäfer had challenges finding Lehtis in the open sea. The Finn had to give instructions to Neuschäfer with emergency rockets, shouting and with the help of a walkie-talkie, because Lehtinen had line of sight to the boat’s mast.
Neuschäfer remembers that Lehtinen was really positive despite the fact that he had spent more than a day in his lifeboat.
– Before Tapio got on my boat, he asked me to hand him the scraper. They say there was something to clean in the bottom of my boat, Neuschäfer laughs.
– When he got on the boat, I gave him a big hug and thought “wow you’re alive”. Tapio was just joking and was really positive. It made an impression.
A secret language between sailors
Lehtinen and Neuschäfer joked that they used a secret language during the race, because the South African Neuschäfer speaks Finnish. He once lived in Finland, when he also learned the language.
– I came to visit Finland about 18 years ago. This was such a great place that I didn’t want to leave. I started learning the language and stayed in Finland for two years. Now I haven’t heard or spoken Finnish for a long time.
Neuschäfer is used to Finnish coffee culture and says that he likes coffee. During the Golden Globe Race, the competitors are not allowed to stop ashore, so food and liquid must also be reserved for the journey of several months.
– Before the race, there were so many other things to remember that I completely forgot to fill my coffee supply! I realized this pretty early on, so I only drank weak coffee, which was enough almost to the end. It wasn’t as good, but it did the job, Neuschäfer laughs.