Les Sables-d'Olonne (France) (AFP)
An airline pilot in real life, the Finnish Ari Huusela swapped his big plane for a sailboat for a round-the-world trip that he completed on Friday after 116 days at sea, giving him emotions that only the Vendée Globe can. to offer.
"I'm super happy," Ari Huusela keeps shouting, blue eyes shining.
The 58-year-old Finn, the last sailor in the race, arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne in twenty-fifth position to become the first representative of the Nordic countries to finish the Vendée Globe.
His wife, friends, two cousins are there to welcome him with t-shirts specially designed for the occasion on which we can read: "Super Happy sailor".
"It's incredible to be in the middle of the ocean, alone, at the helm of a boat like the Imoca, these are strong emotions, incredible experiences to live. This feeling is unlike any other. J 'love it so much,' Huusela told AFP.
- Support from Alex Thomson -
His arrival was grandiose.
Thousands of people had come to cheer him along the channel, drawing tears from him.
Arrived at the port, he moored his boat to the rhythms of the song he chose: "Proud" (Proud) by Heather Small.
And he happily sang the chorus "What have you done today to make you feel proud?"
He traveled the world alone.
"You succeeded! We all know how tough this race is. You can be really proud of what you have accomplished. Well done!" Welshman Alex Thomson told him in a message sent to AFP.
Thomson, second in the Vendée Globe 2016, was a great support for the Finnish skipper, on the water but also out of the water, advising him on how to approach and convince sponsors.
Because Huusela started 4 years ago without any partner.
Introduced to sailing when he was 24 years old by colleagues, he has gradually become more experienced.
In 1999, he took part in the Mini-Transat and began to dream of the Vendée Globe.
- Leave without pay -
"In 2017, he had enough courage to buy a boat. The boat was under tarpaulins, in the middle, of waste, he had not sailed for six years. It had to be repaired, which we did in England, "his wife and team manager, Niina Riihela, told AFP.
The Helsinki native made a loan to the bank for the boat.
Six months before the start of the Vendée Globe on November 8, he still had no main sponsor.
And the Stark company entered the game, allowing it to buy a new keel.
He was on the verge of not being able to take the start.
His team is made up entirely of volunteers, he took long vacations and took unpaid leave with the Finnair company, which employs him to travel around the globe.
"Ari is one of those people who are completely captivated by the Vendée Globe. I am full of admiration for him, it is people like him who really make this race what it is," said Alex Thomson.
After braving storms and seeing his boat capsize before recovering, Ari Huusela will take time to recover from the adventure, by indulging in another of his passions: telemark.
He plans to resume his pilot activity in May.
As for sailing, he doesn't know.
"My priority is to come back safe and sound, with the boat. To be able to resume my work and pay my drafts", he had just said before taking the start of the Vendée Globe.
© 2021 AFP