Even before the start, Ari Huusela emphasised that he did not want to stress himself: Arriving is the goal. As a professional pilot, he has to stick to fixed schedules for the rest of his life. This morning, Friday 5 March, he arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne at 7:35 UTC after 116 days as the 25th and last of 33 sailors who had started. He thus closes the Vendée Globe 2020.
If anyone can make a racing yacht cabin look like a rumpus shack, it’s Ari Huusela. The first Finn to compete in a Vendée Globe, he took a leisurely approach to this historic event with 116 days of sailing. This puts the 58-year-old in the best Finnish tradition. In the Golden Globe Race two years ago, it was also a Finn, Tapio Lehtinen, who finished last in the round-the-world race.
Ari preferd to lounge in long underpants to Finnish women’s songs aboard his “Stark” and is gearing up to be the last to blow out the candle at the Vendée Globe 2020. If the weather before Les Sables d’Olonne proves to be too unfriendly, he will do an extra lap.
The Finns have proven their competitive qualities in previous generations. Patriotic ambition is no longer necessary for Finnish sailors. Until the middle of the last century, Finnish windjammer crews reliably won the informal wheat race from the Pacific around Cape Horn to Europe. The mastheads of the Pamir, the Passat and the Duchess Cecilie rise behind Ari’s IMOCA.
Today’s flagship sailors like Ari Huusela or his good friend Tapio Lehtinen do honor to their country through character rather than trophies. We talked to Tapio about Finnish sailors in general and Ari Huusela in particular. The first thing the 63-year-old former commodore of the Helsingfors Segelsällskap makes clear is that “In the Wheat Regatta, the Finns did win – but on ships built in Germany, like the Duchess Cecilie from Bremerhaven.”
Tapio Lehtinen seems to be blessed with similar long-suffering patience as Ari. The engineer and professional sailor took part in the Golden Globe Race 2018 and finished last of the five remaining participants. In return, he was the only one to complete the course almost entirely under sail (because his motor collapsed right at the beginning). Tapio will start again in the upcoming Golden Globe Race and in the re-edition of the Whitbread Race as the Ocean Race.
He is enthusiastic: “Initiator Don McIntyre has invented a time machine. He is bringing back the golden age of ocean racing.“ Tapio attributes Ari’s leisurely style to his basic professional attitude: “As a professional pilot, safety is paramount to Ari, so he sails thoughtfully and conservatively. Besides, it was too expensive to take out insurance for his IMOCA. With an uninsured private boat, you don’t take risks …”
Alex and Ari, two unlikely friends
In the preparations for the Vendée Globe, Tapio could be of little help to Ari. Tapio focuses on oldschool sailing with boats that easily have half a century behind them. “I belong to the old school”, he confirms. “With my six-meter yacht “May Be IV” I sail without an engine and without electronics in the Baltic Sea. Less is more, it means pure sailing. I love the six-meter yachts from Olin Stephens, they swim with the waves, not against them.”
Ari Huusela faced very different challenges with his 2007 IMOCA. When it comes to problems with a hydrogenerator, Tapio is the wrong person to turn to. Ari’s British friend Alex Thomson, skipper of the IMOCA Hugo Boss, was able to prepare him much more specifically for sailing in the southern latitudes under modern conditions.