Two former Opti sailors now racing around the world
Anton Eklund, 26, and Viivi Moisio, 21, two former Opti-Sailors from Helsinki, are on board an ocean-going yacht to race around the world. They are part of the 12-strong crew of GALIANA WITHSECURE, a SWAN 55 built in 1970, in the OCEAN GLOBE RACE (OGR) 2023/24, a retro race around the world. Both have been passionate sailors since their Opti days. And when they are not sailing? Anton studies "Automation and Robotics" at Aalto University, Viivi is a sailmaker and a popular Opti coach for young sailors in Helsinki. Their places on board GALIANA WITHSECURE in the round-the-world race were awarded after a demanding and lengthy selection process.
The 24,000-mile sprint around the globe is divided into 4 legs with stops in Cape Town/South Africa, Auckland/New Zealand and Punta del Este/Uruguay. The 14 participating GRP ocean-going yachts are between 55 and 68 feet in length, built before 1988, with a mixed crew on board and at least one crew member under the age of 24. The rules: no GPS, no iPhones, no satellite phones, no computers. So navigation is the same as 50 years ago with sea chart, compass and sextant. The race started on 10 September in Southampton, England. Viivi, Anton and their crew arrived in Cape Town on 28 October after 48 days, third in their starting group. They are now preparing the GALIANA WITHSECURE for the second challenging leg through the stormy Southern Ocean. On 5 November they will depart from Cape Town.
Interview with Anton by Birgitt Müller-Genrich/OPTI CLASS GERMANY
What was your motivation to participate in the OGR?
Anton: I have been sailing since childhood, first Optimist, later other dinghies and short distance racing. My dream has always been to sail long distance regattas as well. I followed many of these events on my PC. At the end of 2019, I heard about Tapio Lehtinen's Finnish "Round the World Project". It was immediately clear to me: this is my chance. A sailor should experience sailing in its diversity, try a lot of different sailing... When you try then you know.
When you think back to your Optimist sailing, which experiences were important for sailing around the world?
In Optimist racing, you train mental strength. In a strong wind regatta you have to fight. There is a situation where you think, I can't go on, my muscles hurt. But you keep going ... "Keep on pushing"! That's what you learn in Opti sailing.
How did you discover Optimist sailing?
Sailing has always been a big topic in my family. I was still very young when I first sat in an Opti. I took part in Opti courses and in the following years in regattas in Finland. When I was between 10-15 years old, I also travelled with my parents to big European Optimist regattas. In 2012, I competed in the Optimist European Championship in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy.
During your time at Optimist, what were the best experiences?
I made many new friends from other countries at the international regattas and also got to know beautiful sailing areas. Slack water always meant a lot of fun with the sailors ashore. Sailing is fun, but without all the nice friends it would only have been half as nice.
What was your sailing time like after the Opti?
I sailed Zoom8 for a year and then 420 for 2 years. In 2014 and 2015 I took part in the YOUTH SAILING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP in Langkawi/Malaysia. This was followed by the switch to the one-design keelboat J/80 and the entry into match racing. In Finland, there was also a regatta format corresponding to the German Sailing League. In 2020 my team from Esbo Segelförening won the Finish Sailing League and in 2021 the final of the Sailing Champions League, we became "Best Yacht Club of the Year".
There was a selection process for participation in the OCEAN GLOBE RACE on the GALIANA WITHSECURE. You made it ...
It was important for the skipper to have some experienced regatta sailors and team players in his circumnavigation crew. From 2020, we were on land and at sea, testing our cooperation and skills. I joined the OGR because I really enjoy working in a team and have a lot of racing discipline. I am on board the Speedmaster/Tactician and responsible for making sure the boat is always fast. I am also responsible for the electrics and the radios.
Describe the circumnavigation training when the crew was finalized.
On the one hand, we were on the move a lot with the GALIANA to get to know the boat and practice our teamwork. This meant sailing even in the Finnish winter, in "heavy weather" and darkness with a headlamp. Once a week we met with the whole crew for athletic training, a second weekly meeting was held in smaller groups. We played ice hockey, went jogging and swimming and went on a cross-country skiing tour with overnight stays in our own tents in Lapland. The Lapland tour also served as mental preparation for our circumnavigation. It was "sailing-like" due to the great physical effort, the cold and the need to look out for each other.
What does a normal sailing day look like for you during the 8-month regatta?
There will be no normal sailing day. Our crew of 12 is divided into three watches, the day is determined by the weather and by the watch system, not by the day-night rhythm. In normal weather conditions we can sail the boat with 3 people. However, during manoeuvres, sail changes or "heavy weather" we have more people on deck. So normally I am on deck for 3-4 hours, the other 6 hours are for sleeping and social work (eating/preparing, washing, cleaning). We have a cleaning plan that we work out together, what has to be cleaned every day, every second day, and so on. This plan must be strictly adhered to.
Space on board is limited. Does your personal space on board roughly correspond to the interior of an Opti?
We were each allowed 60 litres of luggage, not including sailing clothes and boots, so a large holdall. I have a long bunk and can put the bag in the bed. I also packed a book, a notebook, a camera and my little duck "Prevesa". She has been with me since I was 2 years old, a gift from my grandparents for my first sailing trip.
The entire crew competed in the Gotland Rundt Regatta and the Fastnet Race in July and August in preparation for the OGR. Both regattas saw heavy weather with high winds and damage to the boat. GALIANA was dismasted. Did you find these experiences threatening?
No, never. I was glad that we managed everything well. There was wind up to 40 knots, plus very high waves. I trust the boat, GALIANA is built for heavy weather. I trust our crew. We have been sailing together for many months, that is what distinguishes us from other crews. We do what we are able to do!
You will participate in all 4 legs of the race, as will all the other crew members of GALIANA. How do you reconcile that with your studies?
I am currently in the final stage of my studies, so an interruption of one year is possible. My university supports my participation in this circumnavigation.
Are you planning a flight home from one of the stops?
That will not be possible. At the stops, the next leg has to be prepared, plus a flight home is very expensive. It would be exciting to get to know the country and the people in Cape Town, New Zealand and Uruguay.