The latest race news from the race
Ari Huusela and Michael Ferguson, on their 60ft monohull, Ariel II, have finished twenty-sixth in the IMOCA class of the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after crossing the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 11:22:14 (UTC), 18 days, 23 hours 7 minutes and 14 seconds after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France on Sunday, October 27 at 12:15 (UTC).
Ariel II covered the theoretical course of 4,350 nautical miles at an average speed of 9.56 knots but actually sailed 4,721.30 nautical miles at an average speed of 10.37 knots. It finished 5 days 10 hours 59 minutes and 14 seconds behind the winner, Apivia.
In Le Havre, Ari Huusela was often being often being asked about foils by other skippers. Not his foils. His 2007 Owen Clarke-design is not a flier, but Huusela is a former airplane mechanic and now an A350 pilot for Finnair. He did his first transatlantic 20 years ago in a Mini and is the first Finn and Scandinavian to race in and complete the Route du Café. His aim is to extend that feat by going round the world next year.
His 36-year-old Irish co-skipper, Michael Ferguson, cut his IMOCA teeth working on Mike Golding’s Ecover. He skippered, Artemis II,but enjoys training skippers rather than becoming a soloist. It started with one session with Huusela, then another and now, a year and a half later here they are! Such is the momentum building behind the Huusela project. They needed all of it for this race.
“We’ll get in the mix for the start with the helicopters and cameras and then we’ll wave the fliers off,” Ferguson said before the start. They were good to their word and were in the top ten for the first few hours, negotiating the choppy 16 miles of coast and rounding the Region Normandie buoy off Étretat. But in the early hours of the first morning after leaving Le Havre, something was waving at them.
Huusela ‘celebrated’ his 57thbirthday on October 28 with the discovery that the mainsail was torn. A plan to fix by bearing away and heading south was hatched - after Ferguson surprised Huusela by unpacking a chocolate cake made by the Finn’s wife.
Bad news followed bad – the mainsail was delaminating and not reparable – but the messages from the boat became more cheerful and determined the worse it got. Unable to find a suitable or affordable replacement to make a pit-stop for, insisted they were heading to Salvador.
“It was weird looking at the stars last night through the missing mainsail panels,” Ferguson wrote on November 2. “On that subject it hasn't seemed to get much worse but we are still in Reef 2 (about the same sail area now as reef 4) and have been now for 5 days. Managing around 75% on the polars when there is wind and then about 55% in light patches.”
The unlikely became the incredible. They kept pace with the last group of IMOCA and even briefly overtook Pip Hare Ocean Racing as they passed the Canary Islands. But finishing rather than position had always been the goal. Huusela was in increasingly poetic form and he waxed lyrical with pictures of the moon blazing directly through their threadbare mainsail.
As they exited the Doldrums and began reaching in the south-east trade winds towards Recife, they pulled ahead of Vers un monde sans SIDAand opened up a lead of over 40 miles. They needed all of them – more pictures followed of their headsail also delaminating – and the gap closed with every ranking. But they held on; finishing and not finishing last is a huge achievement and a mark of their seamanship.