The sea has told countless tales over the years. Currently emerging from the splashes of the world’s oceans is one such story, that of the Finnish boat, Spirit of Helsinki. Its impressive performance in the first leg of the Ocean Globe Race adds a commendable chapter to the rich history of Finnish sailing. Reaching Cape Town’s leg harbor first, the Swan 651 showcased its exceptional speed and the crew’s undeniable sailing prowess and sheer determination.
The journey from Southampton to Cape Town took longer than anticipated. While initial estimates put the first leg at 30–35 days, nature had other plans. Windless zones challenged both the boat and its crew. The time at sea stretched to 39 days, 20 hours, and 10 minutes before Spirit of Helsinki dropped its anchor as the first in Cape Town’s harbor.
“We were supposed to arrive at 2 a.m., but we waited for six hours ten miles from the Cape in a windless zone. Those were the longest six hours of my life. It was extremely hard to stop just an hour from the destination,” said one of the boat’s owners, Matti Anttila.
Spirit of Helsinki, formerly known as Fazer Finland, had already proved its speed with a third-place finish in the 1985 Whitbread race. However, it wasn’t initially considered one of the fastest in the ongoing race. In the Ocean Globe Race, Spirit of Helsinki competes in the Sayula class. Initially, this class was perceived slower than the longer waterline Flyer class. However, the dynamics of the race dramatically shifted when the long-leading French boat Pen Duick VI (73FT Bermudan Ketch) changed its route, paving the way for Spirit of Helsinki to take the lead using its previously chosen path.
“We didn’t experience any highs or lows. We sailed for three weeks without weather updates, so we chose the traditional route. Our weather expert in Finland suggested 35 degrees would be risky. We went with 38.5 degrees, and everything went smoothly,” shared Jussi Paavoseppä, the skipper of Spirit of Helsinki.
“Our primary strategy was to ensure the entire crew reached Cape Town safe and sound. Of course, our second aim was to sail as fast as possible. Our boat isn’t as swift as Pen Duick VI in windy conditions,” Matti Anttila continued.
The maritime qualities of Pen Duick VI are well-known. Its skipper is also highly respected among the Spirit of Helsinki’s crew.
What’s next? The race’s second leg starts from Cape Town on November 5th, heading towards Auckland, New Zealand. From Auckland, the journey continues around Cape Horn to Punta Del Este in Uruguay. The final leg will be sailed from Punta Del Este back to the starting and finishing port, Southampton, with the race expected to conclude in April 2024.
The sea has its challenges, but one thing is certain: Spirit of Helsinki and its crew are ready to face and conquer them all. And us? We will cheer for them with every wave crest and live through every watch as the salty sea relentlessly splashes our faces.
Thank you to the crew, families, supporters, route team, and everyone involved. It’s a great continuation from here!
Leg sailors: Jussi Paavoseppä, Ian Herbert-Jones, Pasi Palmu, Matti Anttila, Jouko Kallio, Tommi Uksila, Kennet Rehn, Veera Toivanen, Hilla Paananen, Kai Ylikangas, Aaro Immonen, and Lucas Karlemo. You can read more about the sailors on the crew page.