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Rescued in Southern Ocean! Dismasted in Fastnet - Tapio Lehtinen Ocean Globe Race countdown, 46 days

by Ocean Globe Race 25 Jul 2023 10:43 PDT
Galiana WithSecure FI (06) passing HMS Queen Elizabeth after dismasting in the Fastnet Race. Down but not out © Rob Havill / OGR2023

Whitbread and GGR veteran Tapio Lehtinen sailing his beloved Swan 57 "Galiana WithSecure" in the Rolex Fastnet Race was dismasted 12 hours after the start.

Tapio is entered in the 2023 Ocean Globe Race, an around the world race celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread race. He now has just a few weeks to replace the mast and be ready for the 10th September start. Tapio's yacht had been completely rebuilt including all new masts and rigging for the OGR. The loss of the rig was a real shock for him and his tight-knit team of young Finnish sailors and a reminder to all entrants.

Galiana WithSecure FI (06), considered by many as one of the best prepared yachts for the OGR, suffered a major setback on Saturday night when gale force winds and big seas caused the Swan 55 to dismast during the 50th Edition Rolex Fastnet Race.

The race set a new record with 430 yachts starting, but by Sunday morning 86 yachts had retired due to the furious weather, Galiana WithSecure FI (06) among them. The much-respected Finnish skipper Tapio Lehtinen competed in the 1981/2 Whitbread aboard Skopbank of Finland and had listed the Fastnet as being on his bucket list.

He made international news earlier in the year after a dramatic rescue in the Southern Indian Ocean during the Golden Globe Race when his yacht Asteria sank. He returned to Finland to continue working on his 50-year-old Swan, the oldest boat in the OGR fleet.

"We dismasted after a 12-hour washing machine beat down the Solent and through The Needles and before Portland Bill, jumping down from a big wave. I was at the helm myself. The current was against the wind, and the seas were really steep, so the boat was crashing against them. Coming down one wave there was a big crash against the wave and the next crash was the mast coming down.

The beat down the Solent was perhaps the toughest beat I've ever had in my life. A washing machine is no exaggeration. Most of the crew were seasick but still capable of action.

I am very happy that the mast came down at the level of first spreaders. The halyards kept it up and it did not come all the way loose, but we'd 15m of mast in the water and the total weight of the rig is probably close to 700 or 800 kilos. But, still, we were able to lift everything on board and save all the equipment.

The culprit of why the mast came down? There was a wire swage fitting which broke. This goes into the mast into a cast aluminum fitting, which I didn't want to have on the rig, but we're now certainly going to change to a more traditional through bolt and outside toggle way of fixing the swage.

I've been telling my team that in 1985, Simon LeBon used the Fastnet Race as a dress rehearsal for the Whitbread Race and instead of losing a mast, he lost a keel, and still they made it to the starting line. And so will we!" Said by Tapio Lehtinen, Skipper of Galiana WithSecure.

The history of the Whitbread is littered with dramatic tales of boats dismasting, not least during the 1973 race when the much-lauded French entrant Pen Duick VI sailed by sailing legend Eric Tabarly was dismasted twice. The 73ft Bermudan Ketch, Pen Duick VI FR (14), is returning to the OGR, on this occasion sailed by Tabarly's daughter, Marie Tabarly.

Another former Whitbread entrant Outlaw AU (08) skippered by Australian Campbell Mackie survived the initial onslaught of Fastnet weather and continues to make progress. Formerly known as Equity and Law when she competed in the 1985 race, she's currently heading towards the Fastnet Rock with another 400 nm to reach Cherbourg. Where they'll no doubt celebrate with a beer or two.

The rain didn't deter family and friends who came to witness the Swan 651 Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) start her journey towards Southampton. They'll reach Denmark by the 27th and the UK by August 2nd - if all goes to plan. Built in 1984, the Swan finished third in the 1986 Whitbread, under the name "Fazer Finland". After undergoing extensive refits, big things are expected of her in the OGR.

Frantic preparations continue across the 14-strong fleet, to get to the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, Cowes, UK on September 10th for the start of the OGR. News from entrants is hotting up. With the 50th anniversary of the Whitbread just 46 days away, it's now very obvious taking on this challenge is NOT for the faint hearted. Even when you might dare to think you're ready to battle the world's oceans, via the three Great Capes, the winds and seas have other ideas.

The OGR is a race in keeping with the spirit of the original Whitbread races, where 'ordinary' sailors compete with sextants and paper charts, but without phenomenal budgets, foils and computers. A return to non-GPS days of real people, sailing beautiful yachts on real adventures around Cape Horn with a real chance to witness what courage and human spirit can achieve.

It starts Sunday 10th September 2023, 13:00 hrs from the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, Cowes, UK.

More information at oceangloberace.com

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