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Global Solo Challenge : Navigating From Cherbourg to Helsinki

Ari Känsäkoski’s Solo Qualifier: Navigating From Cherbourg to Helsinki

The decision concerning the route for the 2,000 nautical mile qualifying sail for the Global Solo Challenge (GSC) lies in the hands of each entrant. However, this choice requires the organiser’s approval.

The primary requirements include the stipulation that the journey must take place on the boat they will use for the challenge, be non-stop, and, naturally, be completed solo.

Some entrants have opted to undertake this qualifying journey while delivering their yachts to Europe in preparation for the GSC. Others are contemplating participation in organised events.

A few have selected a there-and-back shake-down trip to destinations like the Azores in the relatively calm Atlantic waters or other seas. This strategy allows them to familiarise themselves with the boat and its performance while identifying potential improvements, both in sailing and accommodation. Moreover, it affords them an opportunity to adjust to irregular sleep and eating schedules.

However, some entrants must align their qualifying sail with other obligations, essentially having the route determined for them.

One such entrant is Finnish sailor Ari Känsäkoski. His boat, ‘Fuji,’ a Class 40 designed by Owen Clarke, spent the winter in the French port of Cherbourg. But as spring ended, it needed to be in Helsinki for a series of regattas. Ari, who will captain the boat during these races with a team of experienced and novice sailors, saw the delivery of Fuji from Cherbourg to Helsinki as the perfect chance to undertake the qualifying sail.

‘Fuji’ ©Ari Känsäkoski


Although the anticipated wisdom was that the prevailing winds would be predominantly behind him, Ari found that three-quarters of the voyage was against winds of around 30 knots.

His journey took him up the English Channel past Dover, one of the busiest shipping areas globally, and into the North Sea. Here, he chose a route south of the third Easterly lane, supposedly the least busy in terms of shipping.

Navigating through the North Sea, Ari turned starboard into the Skagerrak Strait. Entering this area, he encountered a four-knot current against him, along with thirty knots of wind.

After traversing the Skagerak and Kattegat Straits, he veered port around Sweden’s Southern tip into the Baltic Sea. This final leg of his journey was more peaceful, allowing Ari to enjoy his sail.

©Ari Känsäkoski


Throughout this journey, Ari tested a new integrated navigation system supplied by Raymarine, complemented by routing information from his team at the Finnish Ocean Racing Association. Despite the testing conditions, Ari was satisfied with their performance.

After overcoming numerous challenges, Ari arrived in Helsinki on 17th May, having spent over fifteen days at sea. Despite these difficulties, Ari found solo sailing to be more relaxing as it meant less responsibility for others.

Once ‘Fuji’ completes the summer’s Baltic Sea regattas, Ari and a full crew will sail again, this time from Helsinki to La Coruña, Spain, via Cherbourg, in time for the final GSC preparations.

Ari is committed to a carbon-neutral circumnavigation. To help achieve this, he will modify the boat to include an additional Remoran hydro-generator and solar panels, providing up to 1,000 watts of extra charging potential.

Ari’s experience has been challenging, navigating through heavy traffic and multiple obstacles, but it’s all in preparation for the bigger challenge ahead – the GSC.

As part of his commitment to sustainability, Ari will be using ‘Fuji’, a pre-existing vessel, thus reducing the emissions associated with building a new boat. The qualifying sail demonstrated to him the importance of alternative charging sources, prompting him to further enhance his boat’s green energy production capabilities.

©Ari Känsäkoski


One of Ari’s other notable additions to ‘Fuji’ is the installation of Raymarine’s extended GSM amplifier. This device proved its worth during the voyage; while sailing in the Baltic Sea, Ari was able to join the Eurovision Song Contest party, celebrating the success of his fellow Scandinavians. This anecdote highlights the impressive technological innovations available to sailors today, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Having completed the qualifying sail, Ari now turns his focus to the upcoming series of regattas, where he will continue to hone his skills and prepare ‘Fuji’ for the main event. The journey from Helsinki to A Coruña, Spain via Cherbourg later this year will undoubtedly provide another exciting chapter in Ari’s story.

Once in Spain, Ari will have a little time to breathe before the GSC starts. The final preparations will involve race inspections and last-minute adjustments to ensure ‘Fuji’ is as ready as she can be. However, given Ari’s diligent planning, meticulous preparation, and commitment to sustainability, there’s no doubt that he and ‘Fuji’ will be strong contenders in the Global Solo Challenge.

Indeed, Ari’s journey thus far is a testament to the resilience, resourcefulness, and dedication required to partake in such an event. His attention to detail, forward-thinking approach to sustainability, and the apparent joy he derives from solo sailing make him a fascinating figure to watch as the Global Solo Challenge draws closer.

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