Many of you will know Tapio Lehtinen, owner and long time campaigner of May Be IV from Finland. Tapio often sails his 6 long distances to reach events, but currently he is taking on an even greater challenge in the shape of the 30,000 mile non-stop, single handed, no outside assistance Golden Globe Race.In August 1966 Sir Francis Chichester single handedly sailed Gypsy Moth away from England and around the globe. 274 days and one stopover in Sydney later he sailed home again, setting the world record for the fastest time by a small boat circumnavigating the globe. The adventure ignited interest in long distance solo sailing and in 1968 the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was launched as the first single handed non-stop race around the planet. Sir Robin Knox-Johnson sailed to victory becoming the first single handed circumnavigator in the process.Fifty years on and 18 sailors from 13 nations have taken up the Golden Globe challenge again, coming to the start line at Les Sables d’Olonne, France on 1st July 2018. Like the original race,the 2018 Golden Globe is very simple. Depart Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on July 1st, 2018 and sail solo, non-stop around the world, via the five Great Capes and return to Les Sables-d’Olonne. Entrants are limited to sailing with similar yachts and equipment to that which was available to Sir Robin in the first race. That means sailing without modern technology or benefit of satellite based navigation aids. Competitors must sail in production boats between 32ft and 36ft overall (9.75 – 10.97m) designed prior to 1988 that have a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge. These yachts are heavily built, strong and sturdy, similar in concept to Sir Robin’s 32ft vessel Suhaili. In contrast to the current professional world of elite ocean racing, this edition travels back to a time known as the ‘Golden Age’ of solo sailing.
Tapio Lehtinen from Helsinki is a life long sailor who started in Optimist dinghies at the age of 6. A former Commodore of the Helsingfors Segelsällskap (HSS) Yacht Club, his experience ranges from racing Lasers, 470s and 29ers to keel boat and ocean racing, including a three-decade-long racing career in his classic six metre May Be IV. He has competed in the 1981/2 Whitbread Round the World Race aboard Skopbank of Finland, the 1985 Two handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, the 2-STAR transatlantic race 1986, the Azores and Back race in 1987 and the 2014 Bermuda Race.
He says of the Golden Globe Race: “I am participating because I love sailing, I enjoy being at sea. I accept the challenges, but I am not a risk taker. I take pride in preparing well and sailing in a seamanlike way. I’m competitive, but realise that in order to do well in this race, I first have to finish.”
He is campaigning a Benello Gaia 36, a Sparkman & Stephens design that won the first One Ton Cup in 1965 and is a long keeled forerunner to the Nautor Swan 36. He sailed the boat from the Mediterranean back to Finland in 2017 prior to her being extensively refurbished at the Nordic Refit Centre in Larsmo. Built in 1965, Asteria is the oldest boat entered in the Golden Globe Race, and work to restore her to racing standard has been extensive. Her deck moulding has been replaced and the interior stripped out to leave a bare hull prior to rebuilding with stronger bulkheads and fastenings.
And as the fleet pass the half way mark in their journey it would appear that his approach and preparations are very much paying off. Of the 18 starters 10 have already been forced to retire from the race due in large part to some exceptionally sever storms, but Tapio is very much still racing and is currently lying in sixth place. Communication is limited with the boats because of their lack of 21st century communication equipment, but the latest report from Tapio came on 7th November in association with his mandatory 24 hour stop at the Hobart, Tasmania, boatshed.com media drop point. Today’s news report from the race tells us that:
Finnish skipper Tapio Lehtinen finally reached the BoatShed Com Hobart film gate in 6th place on Tuesday after a 54 hour sleepless battle against fickle winds to sail round the bottom of Tasmania and up the Derwent River. His Gaia 36 yacht Asteria suffered a terminal engine failure early in the race, and without oars, the Finn had no other option but to wait for the wind to fill in.
“I have been learning to manoeuvre my 6 Metre yacht without an engine for 36 years, but this boat is a little clumsier, especially with all the goose barnacles on the rudder.” He explained when finally at anchor.
“The barnacles on Asteria are every bit as bad as they are on Uku Randmaa’s 3rd placed Rustler 36 One and All” Don McIntyre observed. Tapio has a huge infestation which must be costing him at least 1knot in boat speed.”
Barnacles apart, Lehtinen spoke generously about his experiences to date. “I love the sea. I love sailing. This race is fantastic and gives me great energy. There is great camaraderie between the sailors and I mostly like the sea, the life, the birds and the waves.”
He said that he had seen very little pollution. “The challenge is to keep the oceans as they are. I haven’t seen any harm done by man in the Southern Ocean.”
Talking about his boat, which was extensively rebuilt for the race but launched very close to the start, he added: “This has been a do-it-yourself kit from the start and during the Atlantic leg, I had my tools, glues and screws out every day trying to fix the problems which cost me a lot of time. But I am pretty happy with the state of her now. It would be nice to have a working engine, but I feel safe with the boat, which is very important. This race is very competitive but the most important competitor is the sea and I think the boat is now fit to fight.”
Asteria and her skipper came through last week’s storm unscathed. “At times the winds are frightening but the boat was rebuilt like a tank and I didn’t feel the storm from inside. “My Windpilot (wind vane self steering system) has been working really reliably so I haven’t had to hand steer at all. I don’t need to be on deck at all other than to adjust the sails and the pilot. I may have been one of the luckiest in the fleet avoiding the worst storms and have only had the mainsail down to the 4th reef and storm jib set once.”
After spending the night at anchor, Lehtinen extended his stay by another 10 hours to check his rig and fix a halyard issue at the top of the mast. He eventually set sail again at 18:30 local time to chase after 5th placed Istvan Kopar, having spent 36 hours at the Hobart Gate.
As Tapio and the fleet start to make their way back home once more we wish all the skippers still racing fair winds and safe passage. You can keep up with all the latest news from Tapio and the race at goldengloberace.com.