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Vendée Globe 2020: Meet Ari Huusela

by Vendee Globe 2 Aug 10:00 BST
Ari Huusela - Vendée Globe © Jari Salo

His pathway to compete on the Vendée Globe is like a carefully developed flight plan which is what you might expect from a career long haul pilot. Finland's Ari Huusela, 58 years old, will take time off from being a Finnair pilot to race this ninth edition of the Vendée Globe sailing the Owen Clarke designed Stark, which started out as Dee Caffari's Aviva in the 2008-9 race.

Ari would become the first Nordic skipper to compete on the race. After starting competitive sailing relatively late, in his 20s, Ari has followed a 'classic' pathway coming to the Vendée Globe after having competed in the Mini650, Class40 and the IMOCA completing two Mini Transats, two Route du Rhums (one each in Class40 and IMOCA) and last year's Transat Jacques Vabre.

He is good friends with Alex Thomson and rarely says 'no thanks' to dessert.

Ladies and gentlemen fasten your seatbelts and welcome on board this Vendée Globe flight with Ari Huusela.

Ari Huusela has as of today completed all of his entry requirements and is now officially registered to start the Vendée Globe.

General info

Date of birth: 28/10/1962
Place of birth: Helsinki
Home town: Helsinki
Studies and career outside of sailing: Aviation mechanic, Airline Pilot (since 1990)

Early career

Your first sailing trip: where, when, circumstances?

That was when I was around 10 years old spending some time at our family friends' summer cottage by a lake. There was a Vikla sailing boat so of course me and my one year younger brother got an idea to try sailing. We had no experience what so ever and wind took us to the other end of that small lake. Of course we had to walk back and then take a rowing boat tow the Vikla back.

How and why did you decide you wanted to be involved in ocean racing?

It was around mid eighties when Finnish BOC solo sailor Pentti Salmi mentioned about Classe Mini in an interview.

At what point exactly did this become the main focus for you?

In 1996 when I really started to learn about it which then led to buying a Mini in 1998

Which result or experience are you most proud of?

All experiences are so very unique. It is extremely difficult to say. The first Mini Transat was naturally a big big thing. Then making history as the first Nordic skipper ever making it to Route du Rhum finish line in 2014 and again becoming the first ever Nordic skipper to start and finish an official Imoca single-handed race. That was in Route du Rhum 2018.


What do you see as your main quality? Calmness

And your biggest shortcoming? Too little time in my days which makes me too busy

If you were an animal, what would you be? An eagle. I can imagine the feeling of great gliding.

If you were a piece of music...? I listen to Finnish (and other) female vocalists quite often.

What is your favourite colour? Red

What do you dream of that would make you happiest? Finish Vendée Globe happily

Your favourite saying? "Onks mitään jälkkäriä?" Any dessert?

If you were not an ocean racer, what would you be? In enjoy my main job still is as an airline pilot, A350 Captain at Finnair.

2020 Vendée Globe

Your ambitions in the 2020 Vendée Globe: Simply to finish the race.

Weaknesses (what could stop you achieving that goal apart from damage to your boat): Something serious I do not even want to think about.

Your secret weapon: Multi tool

What would you consider to be a successful Vendée Globe for you? To start the race first of all, and then making it to finish.

Describe the Vendée Globe for you in three words: Ultimate long-term dream.

Three stand out images you have of the Vendée Globe: The beautiful yet horrifying feeling when skippers are leaving the pontoons for racing around the globe. And those "never give up" moments during the race. The Vendée Globe is a race of big emotions.

Which skipper inspires you? During the years there have been many. But Alex Thomson has played a big role pushing me to this point.

What would you not go around the world without? Aero press coffee maker.

Do you have any environmental / scientific actions/initiative on this round the world race?

Ocean health is something I am dedicated to. I appreciate the Imoca co-operation with Oceans as Common and Unesco and am looking for funding a science project. On top of those I work closely with John Nurminen Foundation that is focusing on the health of the Baltic Sea, my home sea area. And supporting renewable energy and fuels are naturally a part of these actions.

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