March 7 2021
“I was crying most of last night, I have been thinking about this for so long. I am so thankful to my team. Without them I would not be here, and to Alex Thomson who was the first one who pushed me and helped me a lot to start the project. And this welcome here today is so touching. To have been to all the starts of this race since 1996 and now to finally have finished today seeing all these people on the sea, in the Channel and now on the land is just amazing, to be able to enjoy it myself. I am so happy Les Sables d’Olonne and the Vendée region arrange this race, and so to see these nice people from Les Sables d’Olonne taking care of us and being out here this morning is just lovely.”
And while he quickly built his reputation as the race’s ‘super happy sailor’ he had tough times too, particularly beating back up the Atlantic ocean in big, confused seas.
“The hardest bit was when the boat was slamming when the sea state was so terrible and confused, the boat was slamming, slamming at the time. I thought the boat would break into pieces. And it was so uncomfortable to be in the boat at that time, that lasted two or three days and I called Niina (his partner and project manager) and I said had reached a point where I hoped the boat would break in two pieces and I could be rescued by a cargo ship, saving me.”
Both technically and mentally Ari Huusela suffered his biggest setbacks very early on in the race, in the first couple of weeks. But having overcome these minor issues himself, since then Huusela’s two primary modes have been either ‘Happy’ or ‘Super Happy’.
Speaking a few days before his arrival, Huusela confirmed again that his only main goal was always just to finish and he added:
“I am not worried at all. I am just super happy to be in the race and to be where I am. When I started the race I would have been happy to do it in 110 days but to me, it doesn’t matter if it is 150 days; that’s fine as long as I do finish. I knew I would be far away from the others. The most important thing is to finish with a solid boat in a good condition.”
Completing the Vendée Globe is the high point of an ocean racing career which really started in the Mini Class at the back end of the 1990s. He completed the 1999 MiniTransat on a Finnish boat designed by Kamu Strahlmann which was previously sailed on the 1997 race.
In the summer before the start he secured the sponsorship of STARK, one of Finland’s biggest building materials groups. While he was racing their programme won three national sponsorship awards in his native country, where Huusela has become a national hero with a huge following. When he left the dock for his Vendée Globe on November 8th it was an emotional moment. It was the fifth time he had been to Les Sables d’Olonne for a start and this time he was crossing the line.
“At first it was like the Route du Rhum or the MiniTransat or the Transat Jacques Vabre. But I had a bad time in the Doldrums with lots of thunderstorms and rain like I have never seen before, I thought I was going to drown in the rain. And then after that it was annoying to be upwind for the first while I did not like that.” He recalled recently, “Afterwards it was so nice sailing all the way to under South Africa, I really got into it then and enjoyed sailing under my A3, my biggest Code sail. At one point under South Africa we had three boats within a mile, Clement Giraud, Séb Destremau and I, and I took pictures and it was really cool. It was sunny, with beautiful days of easy miles. It was not really like the big south.”
Ari Huusela set himself strict wind limits downwind for his routing – 30kts maximum downwind – to minimise the stress on himself and the boat, which he has a significant finance loan on and which he therefore needed to sell in good condition on his return.
“I am sticking to my comfort zone, a slower, longer route but I am always so happy to be here. I feel safe and felt the boat was safe, this is the way I can stay in the race.”
The final days of his race, spring sunshine and flat seas have been a just reward for Ari Huusela who has become a huge national hero at home in Finland.
THE GREAT PASSAGES
29th on 26/11/2020 09:35 UTC after 17d 20h 15min, 7d 20h 16min after Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS)
Cape of good hope
27th on 12/12/2020 11:32 UTC after 33d 22h 12min, 11d 12h 21min after Charlie Dalin (Apivia)
26th on 12/28/2020 22:23 UTC after 50d 09h 03min, 15d 10h 57min after Charlie Dalin (Apivia)
25th 25/01/2021 01:19 UTC after 77d 11h 59min, 22d 11h 36min after Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV)
25th 12/02/2021 3:33 p.m. UTC after 96d 02h 13mi, 26d 20h 21min after Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2)