Durban — A Finnish sailor’s dream to sail single-handedly around the world was washed away this week when the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) towed his vessel into Durban’s port.
Ari Känsäkoski was only 12 when he started sailing and by the time he was 17 he harboured a dream that one day he would have his own vessel and enjoy a global high sea adventure.
“There’s a Finnish solo sailor who did it in the 80s and had me excited about the idea when I was 17, and since then it’s been on my mind that some day I have to do it,” he said.
Last year the interior architect entered the Global Solo Challenge and set sail in the first pursuit race of its kind from Corona in Spain and expected to be at sea for 140 days.
He had bought his yacht Fuji in 2014 specifically for such a race.
Känsäkoski said pursuit races are unique in that the slower vessels start first and then the faster ones follow.
Whoever finishes first wins the race.
He enjoyed the time on the ocean, especially the action in the “high pressure places”.
However, his dream ran adrift when just days after launching in October he ran into difficulties.
From satellite footage, it appears that he was in the 11th position at the time.
“I was able to go till the south Atlantic and there I had a problem with two of the downwards halyards.
“One of them broke and the other one was damaged so I had one halyard left for downwards sail so that’s definitely not enough for the southern ocean.
“And on top of that I ran into this really big thunderstorm and I ripped some sails and so it was clear that I needed to go through Cape Town for repairs,” Känsäkoski said.
“So I was there for five days and then I carried on.”
At that stage he was still on track to finish the race when disaster struck.
Just days before Christmas his Class40 sailing yacht was dismasted in a remote area of the Indian Ocean in the infamous roaring forties.
On Christmas day the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Reunion, who co-ordinated with Känsäkoski, broadcast a message hoping to reach any vessel navigating in nearby waters.
A Japanese fishing vessel, Tomi Maru No 58, responded and transferred 300 litres of fuel and other supplies to assist him.
This fuel proved crucial in covering many miles to the north towards easier conditions and favourable winds.
However, the fuel transferred was not enough for the whole journey to safety, according to the Global Solo Challenge. It said with more than a third of his 1 200 nautical miles journey to go, he had a “lucky” encounter with the Finnish RO-PAX vessel Finncanopus which was en route to Durban. Making very slow progress and with little fuel left, Känsäkoski reached out for help.
“The operation involved the transfer of essential supplies, including clean diesel and additional provisions (freshly baked bread and pancakes) using a throwing line and floating cans,” according to the Global Solo Challenge website.
Känsäkoski continued his journey to Durban and two weeks ago the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre alerted the NSRI that a sailor participating in the Global Solo Challenge was in distress in the Indian Ocean and was heading towards Durban.
On Monday the NSRI was asked to launch a rescue craft to assist the yacht into the port under her own motor power but it then suffered motor mechanical failure and NSRI Durban had to tow her into port.
“We rendezvoused with the casualty sailing yacht 10 nautical miles off-shore of Durban where a towline was rigged and in favourable sea conditions we towed hport.er in.
“The mast lying across her foredeck contributed to a rather challenging effort to safely moor her at the international moorings which was achieved without incident and once safely moored no further assistance was required,” said NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon.
Officially Känsäkoski is still in the race but with the repair work needed he won’t be able to continue. For now he is a guest of the Point Yacht Club until plans can be made to get his vessel to Europe.