Finnish aim to tumble ARC Course Record

20 November 2014

As soon as the start gun goes off on Sunday, the competition will be on for the first boat to arrive in Saint Lucia. There is one crew in particular sailing amongst the 28 boats racing under IRC in the ARC Racing Division who have a line honours victory firmly in their sights. The ARC continues to attract a good number of high profile racing professionals as well as amateur adventurers and none more so than those racing on the largest boat in the fleet, Mike Slade’s Farr 100, Leopard by Finland.

It’s a diverse fleet in the Racing Division with the likes of Dragon world champion and bronze Olympic medallist, Ossie Stewart not being able to resist racing across with friends in his Dufour 45e, Island Girl and Andy Budgen’s Volvo 70, Monster Project returning with unfinished business having been pipped to the post last year by Max Klink’s Knierim 65, Caro who smashed the ARC course record, finishing in 10 days, 21 hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds.

It is this record that is likely to be under serious threat by the group of Finns on Leopard by Finland this year. The 30m (100ft) canting keel super-maxi recorded a top speed of 40.7 knots on a previous transatlantic record attempt and is a phenomenal ocean racing yacht with a pedigree of smashing transocean records.

The idea of racing across the Atlantic came to Leopard by Finland’s Project Manager, Samuli Leisti whilst he was in the sauna with friends! Something that is typical in Finland according to Whitbread Round the World Race and Olympic Soling Class sailor, Kenneth Thelen who is Watch Captain for the race. Once the idea was conceived, it was all systems go for the group of Finnish friends.

“The main goal is to beat the ARC Course Record,” explains Thelen. “But we do have some on board who have hardly set foot on a boat before and none of the other Finnish guys have sailed across the Atlantic.” The Finnish adventurers will be racing alongside Leopard’s regular ‘pro’ crew headed by Chris Sherlock, making up the 20-strong potential record-breaking team.

“We will keep our eye on the ultimate goal but our number one priority will be for the safety of the crew and boat. Our aim is to finish the race and hopefully to break the record. If we achieve our goal and the record in the process, then great,” continues Thelen, two-time Finnish International Sailor of the Year.

The recent Olympics and a medal win for Finland in sailing was good news for those trying to increase the popularity of sailing in a country where the sailing season is short (May-September) but it is this Finnish-led transatlantic record that the crew of Leopard by Finland feels will attract a wider audience.

“It’s a kind of Finnish sailing madness,” says Project Manager, Samuli Leisti. “If the Finnish people didn’t do crazy things like this, our voice would never be heard. In that sense, I want our record attempt not only to be the biggest Finnish project in a long time, but I want it to take our whole sailing scene onto the world stage.”

Sumali and the whole Finnish team have only a few days to familiarise themselves with the 100 footer and prepare for the crossing. “The boat is amazing and it feels huge when you are on it but I am assured by the regular crew that the more you are on it, the smaller it gets.

When you are on it, it seems big, but the regular crew tell us that it feels big at the beginning, but the more you are on the boat, the smaller it gets. We all arrived yesterday and I’d never seen the boat before, so now we are checking the sails, looking at the boat, the watches and security things and everything that is important to be safe on the boat. We will then go for a practise sail in the afternoon to get used to the mighty Leopard.”