When Finnish Ari Huusela crossed the finish line of the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe this morning at 08.45hrs he closed the ocean race, being the last competing skipper.
Finishing in 25th place on his IMOCA STARK, his arrival marks the ultimate conclusion of an ocean racing dream which has occupied almost all of his spare time over the last 22 years. His elapsed time is 116 days 18 hours 15 minutes and 46 seconds, 36 days after winner Yannick Bestaven.
Huusela’s low risk ‘one chance only’ race has been executed with all the prudent weather routing precision and safeguards that might be expected of a long haul airline pilot who, at the age of 58, wanted to give himself the best chance of finishing the course. Not only that, he wanted to minimise the stress on the boat, on which he has a significant finance loan and now needs to sell.
An aeronautical engineer turned pilot who has been a keen amateur ocean racer since he first raced across the Atlantic in a tiny Mini650 in 1999, Huusela becomes the first skipper from a Nordic nation to complete the Vendée Globe.
He may be the last finisher to break the finish line, but it is doubtful there is a sailor in the race who has taken more pleasure from each day.
Both technically and mentally he suffered his biggest setbacks very early 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’.
As he closes a Vendée Globe which sees the highest ever number of finishes, (25, seven more than 2016-17’s previous best when 11 of the 29 skippers who started abandoned) Huusela can also reflect that he was in the race almost all of the way round.
Only in the last two weeks of the course did he finally lose contact with his nearest rival when Alexia Barrier escaped out of the zone of high pressure south of the Azores to move several hundred miles ahead of the Finnish skipper, who suffered three frustrating days crawling at sub 5kts and making only around 50 miles a day.
Speaking a few days before his arrival, Huusela confirmed again that his only main goal was always just to finish: “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 be 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 good condition.”