Yet Alex and Ari could hardly be more different: the young, extroverted showcase athlete with high-gloss aptitude versus old wrinkled cheek.
Ari lümmelt in langer Unterhose © Ari Huusela / Stark
Auch an Deck entspannt sich der Finne © Ari Huusela / Stark
Ari Huusela in seiner Lieblingsposition © Ari Huusela / Stark
Alex Thomson repeatedly put such a strain on his high-bred ship that he had to abandon the race ready before Cape Town. The compulsion to set a record was breathing down his neck. Ari Huusela treats his “Stark” more like a beer-carrier’s cold-blooded horse – and sails unflinchingly towards the finish: “I am not in a hurry.” The last will be the first.
Ari Huusela could also rely on the expertise of Alex Thomson’s team when it came to media presence and sponsors. But would he do as well as Alex as a model in a Hugo Boss collection? Fortunately, no. He’d look like he’d been hit on the head. That’s exactly what brings him so many loyal fans.
Ari Huusela at Birds and Fishes
Finns are considered to be lazy loners with a big heart that can only be unlocked with an XXL bottle of schnapps. Sailing fits perfectly into this image. Professional sailing less so. Professional sailors are dependent on recommending themselves as walking advertising pillars for major sponsors. They have to invent themselves as a brand that is worth investing in for image reasons. 24-hour toothpaste smile.
One of many friendly Selfies © Ari Huusela / Stark
A little shower from the watermaker © Ari Huusela / Stark
Time to shave © Ari Huusela / Stark
Ari’s compatriot Tapio Lehtinen struggled in the Golden Globe Race: “I had to send out a tweet every day. It could barely stand it to use the same medium as Donald Trump …” But rattling social media is inevitably part of the trade.
And then there were messages like this, dropped off the southern tip of New Zealand: “STRESSFUL NEAR THE LAND.” Then this morning: BAD STEERING CAPABILITY / BARNACLES, HAD TO TACK FOR LEE ROOM.”
Athletes in the second half of their lives
At the Vendée Globe, athletes in the second half of their lives like Jean Le Cam oder Miranda Merron have found a way out of their misery with their own unique style. Model agencies have a subsection, the type gallery for non-standard but interesting people. They are these types. And in the first place of this squad is Ari Huusela.
Ari Huusela in his own element © Ari Huusela / Stark
Asked how he feels just before arriving, Ari Huusela says, “I’m just super happy to be in the race, where I am.” On the last nautical miles, he enjoys the last three portions of Caramel Beurre Sale from his on-board provisions.
Ari Huusela seems like the prototype of a man with both feet firmly on the ground. But as an aviation captain and skipper, he prefers to spend time in elements for which man is not equipped: air and water.
It’s always greener on the other side, with the birds and fish. To follow this age-old human longing in all serenity makes Ari Huusela a hero out of competition in this Vendée Globe. People don’t root for him, they dream with him.