Parallels and eco-sustainability around the world

Published on April 25th, 2023

The inaugural Global Solo Challenge 2023-24 seeks to be a budget-friendly solo, non-stop race around the world. For boats from 32 to 55 feet with an IRC rating below 1.370, a pursuit start over 11 weeks begins in A Coruña, Spain, with the first boat to return deemed the winner. In this report by Dave Proctor, he profiles two entrants for the upcoming start:

A sports project that unites a great passion on the sea and at work. François Gouin, an oncologist, surgeon, and solo sailor, is a spokesperson for Unicancer, his employer, to promote the beneficial effects of sports both in cancer prevention and in the treatment of cancer patients. He pursues a personal dream, sailing around the world, while still serving the profession that has been the mission of his entire life.

Can we really find parallels between the profession of a surgeon and that of a solo sailor? François’ story is proof.

Fascinated by solo sailors and sailboats he admired as a child on the pontoons of Saint-Malò during summer vacations, François learned sailing on a small family dinghy. He became passionate and went to sea for daily outings and small cruises, while also choosing a very demanding educational and professional path, a medical career, and in particular, surgery.

In truth, without necessarily realizing it, over time he developed many professional skills and abilities that are also crucial at sea.

“It may seem strange, but there are many parallels between my profession as a surgeon and that of a solo sailor. There is a process of reflection, preparation, and anticipation, both in my profession and in solo sailing. In both, you are in action and must know how to manage your emotions. You face many unexpected events, and it is essential to manage the mistakes you make. You must be rigorous but also very humble.”

You are part of a team effort and alone simultaneously. “You learn teamwork. I have always worked in hospitals in large teams, and now to prepare for the GSC, I have a group of friends and family who help me prepare the boat (a Finot-Conq design Pogo 40S). But then, when I operate or sail, I am alone.”

Sailing is by its very nature, a sport that can and in my view should be ecologically friendly. One trend that I have noticed amongst sailors of all degrees of expertise, is that they want to take the eco-sustainability of their sport and indeed their lifestyle to the next level.

One Global Solo Challenge (GSC) entrant who thoroughly embraces this ethos is Finnish sailor Ari Känsäkoski.

I spoke to Ari and discovered that he has equipped his Owen Clarke design OCD40 to be as eco-friendly as possible. For power on his yacht, he has installed hydro generators, and for those who have not seen the new breed of hydro generators, these look like outboard motors which are attached to the stern of yachts, except these are fitted with turbines (rather than propellers).

The turbines spin as the yacht sails along converting the energy of flowing water into mechanical energy. A hydroelectric generator converts this mechanical energy into electricity to charge the boat’s batteries. These units come into operation above four knots and maintain the charging of the boat’s batteries as long as this speed is maintained, twenty-four hours per day.

Ari will also install a solar power system together with a backup wind generator.

As a further backup, and indeed should he need it in an emergency, he will be carrying a limited amount of diesel to power the engine, but even this will be renewable diesel which is produced from lower carbon materials like waste agricultural oils and fats, which, because it is created through a process of hydrotreating, it burns much cleaner (up to 80% better) than conventional diesel.

Cooking will be by use of biogas, again a renewable source of fuel made from waste products.

I should also explain that apart from him being a sailor, racer and sailing coach, Ari is also a qualified interior architect, who writes about, teaches and indeed heads up a practice called ‘ZEROdesign’, which specializes in eco-sustainability in the building and running of houses and workplaces.

Recently Ari has been working on building lifecycle analysis projects, enabling people to understand how their choices impact the planet and its ecosystem under the umbrella of ZEROchallenge. This lifestyle project provides information on carbon-free architecture, living and ECO-efficiency, including advice for people on how to adopt a maximal recyclable lifestyle.

Ari is an extremely experienced sailor and has been racing yachts, solo and in teams for the past forty years. Apart from many other successes, Ari has won five Finnish championships in dingy classes and was crowned Military Nordic Champion in 1990, Finnish Offshore Champion in 2000, ARC Class Winner in 2002, Finnish IRC ranked Winner in 2012, Best Vintage Class40 in World and European Championship Series 2017 and European Championship 2022.

He has also competed in the Solo Round the Rock (original Fastnet course solo race), in 2016 and 2018, RORC Transatlantic Race 2018, 3 Fastnet races and the Round Britain and Ireland 2018.

Ari is also the lead in the Finnish Ocean Racing Association which provides sailing opportunities, race training and indeed racing for any sailors on board his boat, which is normally moored in Helsinki or in Cherbourg.

Ari’s boat, ‘Fuji’ is a Class40 built by sailor Alex Bennet in Totnes, England. It was specifically designed and built for Category 0 racing, so the major refits that have been required to some of the other boats in the GSC (like watertight bulkheads) have not been necessary on Fuji, though, as Ari points out, there are always jobs to do on a boat and there is more than enough work to keep him and his team busy.

Ari also asserts that this boat is actually over-specced, so whilst heavier than some others in its class, this boat is actually safer to a higher degree than the Category 0 specifications dictate.

Ari bought the boat in 2015 intending to compete in the Global Ocean Race of that year.

That race was cancelled and a suitable event for such yachts was never organized until the GSC was announced. Ari was happy to have entered this challenge, particularly as the ethos of the organizers as regards sustainability aligns closely with his own beliefs.

The boat is currently moored in Cherbourg, France, away from the snow and ice that is still around in Helsinki.

Ari intends to depart from Cherbourg after Easter and follow a route that will see him leave England to starboard. He will travel solo and non-stop up the Irish Sea, around the top of Scotland, through the Danish straights and then into the Baltic Sea and up to Helsinki. This will be over 2,000nm and will act as his qualifying sail for the GSC.

During the summer, Ari and his team from Finnish Ocean Racing Association (which incidentally includes his fellow sailing girlfriend), will carry out such last-minute jobs as are required, before leaving Helsinki to sail down to A Coruña and the departure, which he surmises will be late October.

comment banner

Tags: , ,

Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.