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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Spirit of Helsinki first across the line in Leg One of McIntyre Ocean Globe Race

by Ocean Globe Race 20 Oct 2023 16:09 PDT 20 October 2023
Champagne time for Spirit of Helsinki to celebrate line honours victory in Cape Town - Ocean Globe Race © Jacqueline Kavanagh / OGR 2023

There were emotional scenes as Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) crossed the finish line of the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race taking line honours for leg one. At 08:10 UTC, the Swan 651, having sailed for 39 days, 20 hrs and 10 mins and covering 7670 nm from the UK to Cape Town, also took first place in Sayula Class.

The lack of wind, drizzle and low cloud-consumed Table Bay Harbour and slowed Spirit of Helsinki to a painful 2knots on approach to the breakwater just outside the V&A Waterfront. The last 10 nm taking 6 hours to complete. But it did little to dampen the crew's excitement on their achievement.

Finnish skipper, Jussi Paavoseppä, stated on September 10th at race start in Southampton that he was determined to win.

We're heavily on the racing side, more than just a cruise. We want to win the whole show. The line honors is something we'd love to do. I think we will have a great race with Marie (Tabarly Pen Duick VI) for that. - Jussi Paavoseppä - Skipper, Spirit of Helsinki

Pen Duick VI led the race for 37 days until the decision was made to turn east towards Cape Town much earlier than the traditional route of heading south to 40 degrees, and then approaching Cape Town from the southwest. This proved a costly mistake for the much-loved French yacht that raced in the 1973 Whitbread by Marie's father, Eric Tabarly.

The Bermudan Ketch was a firm favourite with many sailing fans, so this move provided a major shock when her lead began to slip and was finally swallowed up by the Swan 651.

But it might also be noted that Spirit of Helsinki may not have been given the respect she deserved at race start - with many considering only the Flyer Class yachts the potential winners. This has proved a mistake.

Jussi Paavoseppä is especially proud as a Finn to be sailing the Finnish Swan 651 designed for the 1986 Whitbread under the name Fazer Finland, which came third. Speaking on the pontoon at the V&A Waterfront, an emotional Jussi admitted he was missing his family, but was very proud of the team's achievements.

We didn't have any lows or highs and that was the tactic and not to drive the boat too hard. We went three weeks without any weather information so we decided to take the old-fashioned route. Our weather guy in Finland had said to go 35 degrees is risky and we went 38.5 degrees and it went well. - Jussi Paavoseppä - Skipper, Spirit of Helsinki

They left the UK two spinnakers short after a delivery mix-up, something that clearly didn't hinder their performance, but might affect things to come, according to Jussi. The new spinnakers are due to arrive in the days ahead.

"Next leg we'll be even faster," he joked.

The crew are certainly not lacking confidence and are determined to hold onto their lead position.

When asked when he knew he would be first, Jussi replied "From the beginning!". Something maybe Marie Tabarly was unaware of.

This result is a credit to the Helsinki team. It is also a classic demonstration of sailing driven by sailors and humans rather than computers telling the crew when, where and how to do everything. We see completely different routes across the oceans from each entrant and real human skill and courage pushing the boats forward and creating fascinating stories. - Don Mcintyre, OGR Founder and Race Director

Twenty-one-year-old Aaro Immonen was all smiles as the yacht docked in the V&A Waterfront.

"I can't describe the last 24hrs. With no wind it was very hard as we'd had a good voyage up to that point. But now, being here, it makes up for all the work," said Aaro, who was very ready to go party.

Honorary Consul of Finland in Cape Town, Philip Palmgren, was delighted to be on the finish line to welcome his fellow countryfolk. Spirit of Helsinki is one of two Finnish boats in the OGR. The second, Galiana WithSecure is predicted to arrive later in the week.

"I'm very proud. They've been sailing for such a long time and delighted to receive them in Cape Town," said Philip, who is planning on hosting both teams during their stopover.

With Pen Duick VI expected to arrive Friday evening, it's Translated 9 and Maiden that have to face the high winds predicted over the weekend. Translated 9 continues to hold the top stop for IRC rating and Flyer Class. It seems very unlikely that Maiden will bridge the 78 nm between the two yachts. Both were issued with a weather warning yesterday which is OGR practice once winds are predicted to go over 35 kts The southeasterlies will be gusting 45 kts with 4-5 m seas. Something Maiden are now already experiencing.

"At the moment we have 3-4 metres waves, 30 knots of breeze and it's not the most comfortable. All the girls are just thinking about Cape Town right now. We're definitely looking forward to hot showers and food. Chicken wings, nachos and sushi are the things we've been craving," explained Maiden skipper Heather in her satellite call to OGR.

They also have some maintenance to carry on Maiden whilst in port - having explained that their hydraulic pump in the backstay is broken and presently lashed. There's definitely some problems in that system," said Heather.

Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet continues the long slog to Cape Town. Outlaw AU (08), having taken the most easterly route continues to make impressive progress and might surprise some. They have got a 32-hour time compensation to subtract from the arrival time after diverting earlier in the race to assist a stranded sailor and her decision to remain so easterly proved divisive, but seems to be paying off.

Sadly for Explorer AU (28) and Godspeed USA (01), although making decent progress, seem unlikely to reach Cape Town for the start of Leg 2 Cape Town to Auckland.

The rest of the fleet faces pockets of unpredictable winds over the coming days - leaving the game wide open.

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